US defense giant 'excited' over F-16 collaboration with Türkiye - M5 Dergi
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US defense giant ‘excited’ over F-16 collaboration with Türkiye

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U.S. defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin expressed excitement about the opportunity to collaborate once again with its Turkish counterparts on the Block 70 series of jets following the successful completion of the congressional approval process for the sale of F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits to Türkiye earlier this year.

“As we look at the global demand, we continue to see, for instance, Türkiye. We’re very excited about the opportunity that has recently opened with our two nations agreeing and congressionally notifying Türkiye,” O.J. Sanchez, vice president and general manager of Lockheed’s integrated fighter group, said in an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA).

“With Türkiye, we’re now in that phase where our teams are getting to the final stages of the FMS (foreign military sales) process. And we’re looking forward to hopefully concluding that very soon, and then talking about how we deliver that capability in Türkiye. And we’ll continue to do that as long as there’s strong demand for the F-16, which we see certainly in this next decade continuing around the globe,” he said.

On Jan. 26, the U.S. State Department approved the $23 billion sale of F-16 aircraft and modernization kits to Türkiye after the green light for Sweden’s NATO membership from Türkiye, itself a NATO member for over 70 years.

Türkiye in October 2021 requested from the U.S. 40 new F-16 Block 70 aircraft as well as 79 modernization kits to upgrade its remaining F-16s to Block 70 level.

Türkiye also received a draft offer and letter of acceptance from the U.S. on the procurement of the new jets in February, according to the Turkish National Defense Ministry.

Sanchez’s remarks came as the defense company celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the F-16.

Though Türkiye currently has Block 30, 40, 50, and 50+ series aircraft, the Block 70s are the most advanced fourth-generation fighter aircraft ever produced, said Sanchez.

Lockheed Martin is celebrating the production of its 4,600th aircraft at its facility in South Carolina. While the U.S. Air Force is no longer purchasing new F-16s, nearly 3,100 of these aircraft are still operational worldwide. Recently, numerous countries, including Türkiye, have shown interest in acquiring the Block 70 series of F-16s, which are equipped with the latest technology.

“Part of the reason why the F-16 has been able to endure is just this tremendous versatility. It’s a proven platform that has delivered security results for partners and allies, while at the same time adapting to the modern 21st-century threats that we see today, as well as the way we need to present ourselves as partners and allies and as security constructs. So the F-16 does that exceptionally well. And we’ve stayed committed as a company to ensuring it does that both now and into the future,” Sanchez said.

Favored choice

Since the Ukraine-Russia war began, the Ukrainian military has sought F-16s for its air defense, and that process recently began. Ukrainian pilots began training with the U.S. In addition, many NATO and European countries are considering transferring their existing F-16s to Ukraine while acquiring new Block 70 series aircraft.

The F-16s’ affordability in terms of flight and maintenance costs continues to make it a favored choice for air combat among numerous NATO and European nations.

Sanchez, himself a former F-16 pilot, began his career with the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program, and one of his first flight instructors was a Turkish F-16 pilot.

Emphasizing the common knowledge and skill sharing between NATO allies, Sanchez said: “With the F-16 Block 70, you also become part of a much broader network. So in Europe alone, there are over 700 F-16s. And so when we think about the modern threats that have risen across Europe or even the Middle East, that network effect is incredibly powerful.”

“So when you buy an F-16 or you get a third party transfer or you modernize the F-16 fleet you have, you’re getting the synergy associated with that broad network and the ability to interoperate in a NATO construct,” said Sanchez.

“And with the criticality of NATO air policing missions and the ability to move from one location to another at a rapid pace and an agile way, say, agile combat employment, the Block 70 and the associated airplanes that are in Europe provide a unique capability to deal with those modern threats … So while we see uncertain times all around this, this F-16 is a stalwart for these circumstances when nations need to come together and we see that demand signal very strong across Europe and other places in the globe for those reasons,” he added.

Block 70 advances

The F-16 Block 70 represents a significant advancement in fourth-generation fighter technology, pushing the boundaries of what is typically associated with fifth-generation capabilities.

Described as the pinnacle of its class, Block 70 stands out as the most advanced iteration of the F-16 to date. Sanchez says that the F-16, with its latest technological updates, will remain a key asset in future air forces.

He said Block 70 has Northrop Grumman SABR APG-83 radar, or Scalable Agile Beam Radar, an electronically scanned array radar.

“That radar is very common with what we have on our F-35 (next-generation fighters). Actually, about 95% common in hardware and over 75% common in software that enables that rapid upgrade and the relevancy that we see,” he said.

The F-16 Block 70 jets have also unique capabilities to improve their range using conformal fuel tanks (CFT), said Sanchez, adding that while standard F-16s typically have a flight life of 8,000 hours, this extends to 12,000 hours with the Block 70 upgrade.

This enhancement technically enables these aircraft to remain operational until the year 2060.

In 2019, Lockheed Martin moved production of the F-16 from Fort Worth, Texas to Greenville, South Carolina. All aspects of aircraft assembly, testing, and delivery now take place at this facility. Recently, eight F-16s were manufactured here for Bahrain and Slovakia. The Greenville factory, which integrates parts from eight different countries, plans to achieve a production capacity of four aircraft per month.

Source: DailySabah

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