Lockheed Martin has unveiled the F-16V, a new variant and upgrade package that includes datalinks allowing the aircraft to operate alongside the F-35 and F-22.

In a separate development, Lockheed Martin is developing new variants of the C-130, including the XJ.

The F-16V has datalinks that communicate with the F-35 and F-22. “We believe this F-16V will satisfy our customers’ emerging requirements and prepare them to better interoperate with the fifth-generation fighters, the F-35 and F-22,” says George Standridge, Lockheed Martin aeronautics VP for business development.

The new capability on the F-16 means even if a country is unable to buy the F-35 or F-22, it can still have fighters that can operate alongside U.S. and other air forces’ fifth-generation fighters.

This V variant comes with an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, upgraded mission computer and architecture, and improvements to the cockpit, Lockheed Martin says.

The company is hoping the new variant will provide a boost to F-16 sales and also meet the needs of countries that are planning to upgrade their F-16s.

The company says an F-16 order from Iraq gives it enough to cover up to the end of 2015, but it needs orders for 2016 and beyond to keep the line open.

When asked if the F-16V will take sales away from the F-35, Standridge says: “Adding an AESA doesn’t mean you have a fifth-generation aircraft. If we could retrofit stealth we would, but you cannot retrofit stealth.” He says air forces that operate F-16s today will continue to operate the platform for many years to come. The V upgrade “just means your F-16s can now operate alongside your F-35s,” he adds.

As for V upgrades, Standridge specifically mentions South Korea’s requirement to upgrade F-16s and the U.S. Air Force’s interest in upgrading 300-350 F-16s. But even though he was speaking at the Singapore air show, he made no mention of Singapore’s requirement to upgrade F-16s, possibly because the Singaporeans are very sensitive about having their future plans discussed publicly.

Lockheed also is developing the C-130 platform further with the C-130XJ and SC-130J Sea Herc (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 13).

The C-130XJ initiative is significant because this variant promises to have a sale price that is 10-15% lower than the C-130J, Lockheed Martin says. The XJ’s airframe and engines are exactly the same as the J, but Lockheed Martin has been able to reduce the sale price by stripping the aircraft of some systems deemed to be unnecessary, depending on the mission.

Standridge says they’ve reduced the price of the XJ by taking out the advanced cargo handling system and electronic warfare software protection systems. “But you can add those systems back on if you wish,” he says.

The XJ also is significant because it potentially marks Lockheed Martin’s return to the commercial aircraft industry. The company is hoping to sell XJs to commercial cargo airlines, says a Lockheed Martin spokesman. But to achieve that, the aircraft would need to gain a civil aviation certification. The platform could be particularly useful to cargo airlines operating in developing countries that have unpaved airstrips. Presently these operators are relying on Antonovs and other former Soviet-era aircraft or very early model C-130s, which did have a commercial variant.

In a separate development, Lockheed Martin has turned the P-3’s mission systems into a roll-on, roll-off solution that can be installed into C-130s. The C-130 roll-on, roll-off mission system for maritime surveillance has been around for some years already. The new package allows one to install the P-3’s anti-submarine warfare mission system and other equipment, such as sonar buoys, onto the C-130.

Standridge says the trend today in defense platforms is affordability, relevance and multi-mission capability. “There was a time when air forces could afford very unique capabilities; all the different missions had their own special platform. Now there’s an emphasis on taking a proven airplane and injecting it with new capability.” The change in approach is occurring because defense forces around the globe are having to deal with budget constraints.

“We’re talking to multiple customers about the C-130XJ and SC-130J Sea Herc.” Standridge says. “With the diversity of shipping in this region of the world,” there is a lot of demand for maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, he adds.