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Sale of F-16s to Bahrain could affect Lockheed's Greenville facility

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The State Department has approved the sale of 19 F-16V fighter jets to Bahrain. The deal is worth up to $2.7 billion, according to Reuters.

The sale could affect F-16 production for Lockheed Martin at its Greenville facility.

The State Department approved the sale — which includes upgrading the Middle East nation’s fleet of 20 Block 40 F-16s worth an additional $1.082 million — on Sept. 8.

“Bahrain remains a valued customer and key partner on the F-16 program,” said John Losinger, spokesman for Lockheed Martin’s integrated fighter group. Losinger referred any other questions to the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

It would be the first order approved since Lockheed Martin announced it was moving its F-16 production line from Ft. Worth, Texas to Greenville in March. The last order for F-16s was completed in September. Congress has 30 days from notification to raise any objections to the order.

In June, Lockheed Martin inked a deal with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd., an Indian company that would assist with the production of the fighter in India. The F-16 is in competition with the Saab Gripen Fighter for a contract with the Indian Air Force and Lockheed Martin said it would only initiate the agreement with Tata if the F-16 wins the competition.

Losinger said, even if the company wins the deal in India, it would have no impact on the company moving the production line to Greenville.

“This does not affect our plans to transition F-16 production to Greenville to support emerging F-16 production requirements,” Losinger said.

At the recent S.C. Aerospace Conference in Columbia, Don Erickson, director of Greenville operations for Lockheed Martin, said the company plans to hire about 170 people in the third quarter of 2018 to help with the production of the F-16.

“We’re ready to go and when we do get cooking on this, we’re going to build the most advanced F-16s that’ve ever been built,” Erickson said.

The Greenville facility is also the chosen location for the final assembly and checkout for Lockheed Martin’s T-50A — the joint venture with Korea Aerospace Industries in competition for a 350-aircraft contract to replace the aging Air Force fighter-trainer jet fleet. If Lockheed Martin wins that contract, it is estimated the company will add 250 more jobs to help fulfill the $9 billion to $10 billion contract.

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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