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See the first F-16 Viper built in South Carolina

Lockheed Martin has now given us a full look at the first F-16 Viper fighter jet to roll off the assembly line in South Carolina. The jet, one of 16 jets the company is building for Bahrain, is also the first newly produced F-16 in Block 70/72 configuration and is expected to make its maiden flight early next year.

In a statement to The War Zone, Lockheed Martin confirmed that the jet in question recently completed the final assembly and testing (FACO) and painting phase of its production. It will now be directed to the airline before its maiden flight.

In a post on LinkedIn yesterday, OJ Sanchez, vice president of Integrated Fighter Group and general manager at Lockheed Martin, described the launch as an “outstanding achievement,” particularly for the Greenville, South Carolina plant, saying, “More are to come and eyes to follow.” front!”

In 2017, Lockheed Martin announced that it would be moving production of the F-16 from its main manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, Texas to a smaller facility in Greenville, South Carolina. This came amid a growing focus on the F-35, which is still produced in Fort Worth, and a seemingly dwindling demand for the Viper. As The war zone As reported at the time, this appeared to be a smart move on many levels, and one that could help save the F-16 production line from complete shutdown. Since then, interest in the advanced Block 70/72 variants of the F-16 has grown, leading to significant orders for these jets.

The Greenville line already has a backlog of 128 F-16s, including the 16 for Bahrain. More Vipers are under construction for Slovakia and Bulgaria, with more on order for Taiwan and another unspecified country, according to Lockheed Martin. The company already forecasts the backlog to grow to at least 136, with an expected contract for eight new jets for Jordan. The Bulgarian authorities have also approved plans to purchase a second batch of fighter jets.

The first Block 70 F-16 Viper fighter jet for Bahrain during an earlier phase of construction at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Greenville, South Carolina. Lockheed Martin

Notably, like the upgraded V variants, the new production Block 70/72 F-16s feature Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR), an active electronically scanned array type also found on many older Vipers of the US Air Force is retrofitted. as you can read more here. The advanced new production Viper features an updated glass cockpit with new digital multifunction displays, upgraded mission computers, an advanced electronic warfare suite for self-defense, new data links, provisions for the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) and more.

Part of a brochure by Lockheed Martin marketing the F-16 Block 70 to the Government of India showing various key components included in this configuration. Lockheed Martin

Additional options are available in combination with the Block 70/72 configuration. For example, the image of the first Block 70 F-16 for Bahrain seen at the top of this story shows that it is a two-seat jet with an enlarged vertebra seen on some earlier Viper variants that added Avionics and communications can accommodate systems, countermeasures and more. Previous artwork of a future single-seat Bahraini Block 70 F-16, seen below, shows the aircraft fitted with compliant fuel tanks for range extension. Lockheed Martin said two years ago that they would eventually move to a more standardized configuration, which you can read more about here.

Lockheed Martin

As of today, Lockheed Martin expects Block 70/72 F-16 production at Greenville to increase significantly over the next year and that the existing order backlog will keep the plant busy as early as the mid to late 2020s.

The first jet for Bahrain is scheduled to be handed over to the US government in the first quarter of 2023 and then undergo flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Then it is delivered to the customer. This is a common practice for fighter jet transfers, among other key weapon systems that U.S. allies and partners acquire as part of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process.

There have been reports that Monessa “Siren” Balzhiser, a former US Air Force F-16 pilot who became Lockheed Martin’s first female test pilot last year, could be the one to take the reins of the Bahraini Viper on its maiden flight.

“In the Air Force, my previous background, I was only in the F-16,” said Balzhiser, who has now secretly flown F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in her role as a test pilot, in a recent interview with WCNC, an NBC Subsidiary in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’ve spent 16 years in it, so it’s familiar.”

“The F-16 was here in Fort Worth, Texas and it was moved to Greenville, South Carolina to revitalize the F-16 for many of our foreign military partners who have bought the latest block that we are releasing.” Balzhiser added. “Hopefully you will see that jet or plane fly. It has been many years since we moved the production line.”

All in all, the F-16 production line, which looks like it has a remarkably bright future ahead of it, although just five years ago it looked like it was in the twilight, looks set to make a series of historic “firsts” early next year ” experience.

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