BAE Wins Korean F-16 Upgrade Contract
By Bill Sweetman, Brad Perrett
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) or Korean Airlines Aerospace will presumably install the equipment. KAI and its predecessor company, Samsung Aerospace, built the F-16s from 1997 to 2004.
The South Korean defense ministry aims to sign a contract with BAE this year and have all 134 fighters upgraded by 2021. The last will leave service in 2038, local media report. The project is to be completed by BAE Systems' U.S. electronics unit.
The most important element of the Korean upgrade is an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. This is to be selected separately by DAPA, between the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (Racr) and Northrop Grumman's Scalable Agile Beam Radar (Sabr). It will also incorporate a Link 16 datalink, new GPS-inertial navigation system and improved cockpit displays. South Korea plans to arm the upgraded aircraft with the Raytheon AIM-120C and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles, and the Textron Defense CBU-105 anti-armor weapon.
Lockheed Martin still leads the market due to its sole-source status on the USAF's Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite (Capes) program. This is closely linked to the F-16 service life extension program (Slep), intended to increase the F-16's lifetime from 8,000 to 10,000 equivalent flight hours. The first of about 350 Slep aircraft, modified from Block 40/50 aircraft, is due to enter service in 2017 and the first Capes aircraft in the following year, with “a substantial portion” of the Slep aircraft to be modified.
Capes includes AESA, Terma's ALQ-213 electronic warfare management system (already installed on many F-16s, but not on USAF aircraft), a center-pedestal display (making better use of the F-16's limited panel area, given the aircraft's dimensions and the pilot's knee position) and an integrated broadcast service receiver for joint force intelligence.
Also joining the fray is Boeing, which has said this year that it will consider participating in the market, based on its experience of modifying F-16s into target drones. According to some estimates, more than 800 F-16s could be suitable update candidates.