Idex 2017: Lockheed talks F-16 sales and upgrades with region’s forces

Lockheed Martin is still in discussions about possible upgrade of the UAE’s Block 60 F-16s, called the Desert Falcon, and is looking into a sale to Bahrain as well.

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The US defence company Lockheed Martin is in talks with Arabian Gulf countries to sell F-16 multi-role fighter jets as well as upgrades to existing fleets.

“We are talking to some in the region [about sales],” Rick Groesch, Lockheed’s regional vice president, said on Tuesday at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex) in Abu Dhabi.

Talks with Bahrain on the sale of 16 to 19 F-16s stalled during the administration of the US president Barack Obama but have resumed under Donald Trump, said Mr Groesch.

“We are talking to them [Bahrain] about it and the [US] government is talking to them about buying an additional production aircraft which will be designated Block 70,” he said.

Bahrain, the first country in the region to acquire F-16s about 25 years ago, is also looking to upgrade its existing fleet of 20 Block 40 aircraft, he said.

Lockheed Martin is still in discussions about possible upgrade of the UAE’s Block 60 F-16s, called the Desert Falcon. “Our concentration right now is the support of the aircraft that they got to be able to keep them available to fly the combat sortie rates,” Mr Groesch said. “We are doing all the stuff right now in conjunction with the UAE Air Force to be able to have them fly those airplanes to 2030 to 2040.”

The company is talking to several countries about upgrades, including to Egypt for its fleet of 30 Block 15 variant. Lockheed also plans to deliver five to six remaining Block 50 F-16s out of 36 built for Iraq.

“We will be done with production of Iraq aircraft later on toward the end of this year,” Mr Groesch said.

The company plans to keep future production of F-16s in the US, he said. Lockheed has created F-16 assembly plants in Turkey, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands in the past.

“The next customer that we sell F-16 to we will build them in the US,” said Mr Groesch.

The Trump administration has criticised US companies that have factories and assembly lines overseas and has vowed to create US jobs with his “America First” motto.

As for the delivery of C-130Js for Saudi Arabia, the company is still waiting for government-to-government talks to conclude. In 2013, the US announced Saudi Arabia’s intent to purchase 25 c-130J Super Hercules through a foreign military sale (FMS).

So far, Lockheed has delivered two KC-130J planes to Saudi Arabia.

“We continue to work with Saudi,” said Timothy German, a regional executive at Lockheed. “It is an FMS case, so that’s between the US government and the Saudi government to determine the pacing when the rest of them will be delivered.”

The UAE had held talks with Lockheed about the purchase of 12 C130J aircraft, without reaching an agreement.

“We continue to support the UAE with their existing fleet of C130 and L-100s,” said Mr German. “We are prepared and always having discussions about where they need to go about modernising their C130s.”

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