The USAF wants commoditised F-16V for easier Foreign Military Sales

The USAF operates 1,245 F-16 with 701 with active forces, 490 with Air National Guard and 54 with Reserve. The US Air Force wants to develop a commoditised Lockheed Martin F-16 to make it easier for US allies and foreign partners to buy the combat aircraft.

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The service is eyeing a fighter as its next project after creating a commoditised MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air vehicle (UAV) in coordination with manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, says Kelli Seybolt, deputy under secretary of the US Air Force (USAF) for international affairs, at the Singapore air show 2020.

The USAF believes that the amount of customisation that goes into aircraft bought through Foreign Military Sales complicates the process and increases cost. By creating a standard, or “commoditized” version, the service believes it can make it easier to buy American.

The concept of commoditization of F-16 will be refined first with the MQ-9, says Seybolt. A commoditised aircraft would include a standard price and standard operating cost. And so, it would avoid costly customisation.

“One of the challenges with programmes across the board is when countries start looking at really tailoring what they want, and creating or having developmental aspects,” says Seybolt. “That’s where you add cost and risk.”

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Lockheed Martin said in a financial earnings call in October 2019 that it believed it could increase its backlog of F-16 orders in the near term from 30 units to 90 units based on demand from Asia and the Middle East.

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Demand continues to soar for new production F-16V. Bahrain became the first F-16 Block 70 customer in June 2018, Slovakia signed Letter of Agreement in Dec. 2018 for 14 Block 70 aircraft, and Bulgaria and the U.S. Government are currently negotiating Bulgaria’s planned acquisition of new F-16 Block 70 aircraft.

The U.S. State Department also recently approved the proposed sale of 25 new production F-16 Block 72 aircraft and F-16V upgrades for Morocco, and discussions are also ongoing with multiple other potential customers about new production F-16s and F-16V upgrades.

Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines are the prospective buyers of F-16V Block 70, on the contrary, India wants to build a customized variant of F-16V Block 70- dubbed F-21 under Indian MMRCA v2.0 procurement programme.

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The F-16 Block 70/72 is the newest and most advanced F-16 production configuration, combining numerous capability and structural upgrades. 

Lockheed Martin hosted a ceremony April 23 to celebrate its new F-16 production line in Greenville, South Carolina where the company will begin manufacturing F-16V Block 70 aircraft later this year.

Lockheed Martin sees F-16 production opportunities totaling more than 200 aircraft.

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