During a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 23, Lockheed Martin formally opened its new F-16 production line in a newly refurbished hangar at Greenville, South Carolina. The event was attended by company officials and local political representatives. The manufacture of new F-16s is expected to start later this year, according to the company.
Lockheed Martin moved the tooling and equipment to the new site primarily to create more room at the Fort Worth, Texas facility, which was the source for the vast majority of the 4,588 F-16s that have been completed to date. With the departure of the F-16 line to Greenville, Fort Worth is now given over entirely to F-35 production. Historically, F-16 assembly has also been undertaken in Belgium (SABCA, 222 aircraft), the Netherlands (Fokker, 300), Turkey (Turkish Aerospace, 304), and South Korea (Samsung Aerospace, 128).
Greenville’s first order to be fulfilled is the 16-aircraft batch of F-16V Block 70 aircraft for Bahrain, ordered in June 2018 and due for delivery from 2020. Bahrain has also signed up to upgrade 20 existing F-16C/D Block 40 aircraft to the same standard, which includes APG-83 AESA radar. In November 2018 Slovakia signed the Letters of Acceptance covering the delivery of 14 F-16Vs by the end of 2023.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to negotiate with Bulgaria over the supply of an expected total of eight F-16Vs. In late March, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of up to 25 new F-16 Block 72s for Morocco, along with the upgrade of 23 existing aircraft to F-16V Block 52+ configuration. The F-16V is being proposed for other fighter requirements around the world, notably in India, where a further upgraded version is being touted for local production as the “F-21.”
Michele Evans, executive v-p of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said, “This is an exciting time as we celebrate another important milestone for the F-16—the world’s most successful, combat-proven fourth-generation fighter. The future is bright, and it begins right here in Greenville, South Carolina, the new home of F-16 production.”
Senator Lindsey Graham added, “This is a great day for Greenville and South Carolina. We have the best workforce in the country, and now we are going to build the most advanced F-16 ever right here in the Palmetto State.” The Greenville final production facility is creating more than 400 new jobs locally, while the wider F-16 production supply chain involves more than 400 companies spread across 41 of the 50 states.