BAE Systems cleared to begin KF-16 upgrades for South Korea


BAE Systems is to begin modernising the Republic of Korea Air Force's (RoKAF's) fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 52 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft, after the South Korean and United States governments finalised the terms of the upgrade, the company announced on 23 December.

With an agreement now in place, BAE Systems will begin Phase 1 of the programme that will bring 134 F-16C/D aircraft up to a modern standard. According to the company, this phase comprises the initial design and development of the upgrade solution, and will last several months.

Phase 2, if approved, will begin in 2014 and will see production and installation of the upgrade kits in all of the aircraft over the next few years.

This upgrade work will cover 91 KF-16C Block 52 and 43 KF-16D Block 52 aircraft, leaving the 36 surviving Block 32 F-16Cs and F-16Ds untouched. In total, the programme is valued at KRW1.3 trillion (USD1.2 billion).

The centrepiece of this upgrade will include the installation of the active electronically scanned array (AESA) Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar. The decision to fit the F-16 fleet with the AESA system was part of a wider modernisation programme to improve interoperability with the Boeing F-15K Slam Eagle.

A single-seat KF-16C and twin-seat KF-16D are expected to be flown to BAE Systems' Fort Worth plant for upgrade work in 2014, with the remainder of the fleet being modernised in South Korea beginning in late 2017/early 2018.