Supplier, Transition Issues Delay First New F-16 Delivery

Credit: Lockheed Martin

A single F-16 subcontractor and “learnings” from the process of moving the assembly line to South Carolina have delayed the first Block 70 aircraft deliveries to 2024, a Lockheed Martin executive said at the Dubai Airshow on Nov. 16.

The arrival at Lockheed’s Greenville plant of a subassembly made by a single supplier is months behind schedule after COVID-19-related disruptions, Greg Ulmer, executive vice president of Lockheed’s Aeronautics division, told ShowNews. Ulmer declined to name the supplier.

Lockheed moved the F-16 line to Greenville from Fort Worth, Texas, in 2017. The transition process has not always been smooth, he said.

But the company is ramping up production of the first aircraft, with a target date for first flight at the end of 2022. That will be followed by flight-testing in 2023 and a transfer of the first operational jet to Bahrain by 2024.

Ulmer’s comments confirm statements earlier this week from Bahraini Air Vice Marshal Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa, who told ShowNews that he does not expect to receive the F-16 Block 70 until 2024.

Five customers have ordered 128 F-16 Block 70/72s; 66 from Taiwan, 24 from Morocco, 16 from Bahrain, 14 from Slovakia and eight from Bulgaria.  

The Block 70/72 version of the venerable fighter includes the Northrop Grumman APG-83 active electronically scanned array radar, improved radar modes, an upgrade modular mission computer and an infrared search and track sensor.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.