Lockheed Martin Corp. will move production of its F-16 fighter jet to Greenville if the U.S. government authorizes the company to sell up to 19 of the aircraft to the government of Bahrain, according to the defense contractor’s top local executive.
Don Erickson, director of Lockheed’s longtime aircraft refurbishment operation in southern Greenville County, said local fabrication and assembly of the F-16 could begin in late 2018, if the Bahrain deal is approved, and would likely mean an additional 160-180 jobs.
Currently, Lockheed makes the F-16 in Forth Worth, Texas.
But the Fort Worth plant needs to make room for additional production of the more modern F-35 fighter jet, Erickson said.
In addition, he said, producing the F-16 in Greenville would create synergies that would make Lockheed’s local complex more cost-competitive in its contest to supply another military jet to the U.S. Air Force for training fighter pilots.
In that competition, Lockheed is hoping to beat out a Boeing/Saab alliance to supply 350 trainer jets and is submitting its price at the end of this month, Erickson said.
“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” Erickson told UBJ.
Lockheed’s plan for the multibillion-dollar Air Force contract is to import the existing T50A trainer jet from South Korea, where it’s manufactured by Korea Aerospace Industries, and assemble the pieces at its local complex, adding 200 jobs.
Erickson said Lockheed’s Greenville complex could wind up making more F-16s than just the 19 proposed to be sold to Bahrain.
The company is actively pursuing F-16 sales to other foreign governments, he said.
Erickson said the U.S. military is no longer buying the F-16.
Top: Swamp Fox in flight. F-16 pilot from the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard flies a training mission in the KIWI MOA airspace over the coast of North Carolina. Photo by SMSgt Thomas Meneguin.