The Department of Defense this week announced a $62 billion 10-year contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. for the production of 90 F-16 fighter jets to be built at the aerospace company’s Greenville location.
The order is expected to reach completion on Dec. 31, 2026, according to a new release, and the jets are bound for allied nations that were unnamed in a news release.
Approved in August 2019 by the U.S. State Department, a Taiwanese contract-in-the-works involved the sale of 66 new Fighting Falcon aircraft, according to an original report. Lockheed Martin said in April that the deal with Taiwan would bring full-rate production up to at least 48 aircraft a year at the company’s Greenville facilities.
When reached for comment, the Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force could not confirm or deny international and national media claims that the finalized deal directed 66 F-16 aircraft to Taiwan and 24 jets to Morocco.
The Taiwanese arms deal faced strong opposition from China following last year’s announcement, which garnered support from the S.C. congressional delegation in a letter released last August.
“We believe the time is now to move forward with the sale before this window of opportunity closes,” said the letter, signed by the entire congressional delegation from South Carolina. “There is no better way to support (the) U.S. defense industrial base and our partner than to move forward with the sale of the F-16 Block 70 to Taiwan.”
Lockheed Martin also did not comment on the proposed deal with Taiwan earlier this month but noted that the Upstate’s defense aircraft business remained “healthy” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with three contracts in place to allied countries.
A deal for eight new F-16 jets produced for the Bulgarian Air Force was finalized in April, following an order for 14 jets for Slovakia, made last September, according to earlier reports.
“Lockheed Martin’s been here for 35 years, built some strong partnerships and it's continuing to perform under its existing contracts for customers that we have,” Ben Peat, deputy site director and senior programs manager at Lockheed Martin, told GSA Business Report in early August.
Aero Precision/Kellstrom Defense, a long-time partner with Lockheed and distributor of F-16 and C-130 aircraft parts, announced its plans to locate to Piedmont in July.
“We saw very strong growth, even now, through this COVID period; we’ve seen strong growth as we continue to perform,” Peat said. “We’re mission essential because we’re supporting the war fighters, so I think that’s why we’re seeing the continued growth. Because unlike some things that are driven by demand, we’re driven by the necessity to protect our war fighters and protect our country and interests.”s