F-16V: A Fighter for the Future

JUL-AUG 2018|BY BUSINESS PARTNERS
Dennys Plessas, Vice President of Business Development Initiatives at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics International, talks to Business Partners magazine about the Hellenic Air Force’s F-16 upgrade program, the future of air combat and Lockheed Martin’s long-standing relationship with the Hellenic Armed Forces.

In April this year, the Greek government ratified a government-to-government foreign military sales agreement for the upgrade of the Hellenic Air Force’s F-16 fighter program. What can you tell us about this important program?

For many years, this upgrade has been seen as a critical and urgent operational requirement for the Hellenic Air Force (HAF). Since 2009, all defense ministers, chiefs of defense and HAF chiefs have agreed on the necessity of implementing the program—and this is also evident in the fact that the political opposition did not raise any objections or concerns about the decision.

After conducting a detailed assessment of current and future threats, the HAF concluded that the most cost effective scenario was to upgrade the 85 recently acquired F-16 Block 52+ and Block 52+ Advanced aircraft.

The upgraded F-16s will feature AESA (Automatic Electronically Scanned Array) radar and LINK 16 network-centric communication systems, creating an efficient fleet capable of addressing current and future threats in the region, while also providing interoperability with fifth generation F-35s and various land and sea platforms.

The upgrade program will also address aircraft availability problems, which are expected to increase soon due to aging systems and diminishing manufacturing sources.

What’s the Greek defense industry’s role in the program?

The domestic defense industry will implement the installation of the upgrade kits and other program elements, including manufacturing of the Group A provisions and support equipment. It is expected that the Greek defense industry will see industrial returns and workload up to $300 million, providing new jobs and increasing its financial growth.

Furthermore, the technology transfer and the enhancement of indigenous capabilities will increase the competitiveness of the Greek defense industry, opening up new opportunities to implement similar programs for other international F-16 users.

Taking into account the funding shortages Greece is facing, is it more beneficial to apply the country’s limited resources to upgrading the F-16 fleet or to proceed directly to a fifth generation fighter like the F-35?

The HAF’s F-16 fleet is the backbone of Greece’s deterrence capability. It is critical that the aircraft remain on the cutting edge of technology, able to respond to the new threats of the 21st century. Most countries acquiring F-35s have also retained and upgraded their F-16 fleet to ensure they’re fully interoperable with the new F-35s. This is also the case with Greece. The upgraded F-16s will be the most advanced fourth generation fighters and will be able to fly joint missions with the F-35s when the HAF decides to acquire them. Until then, the F-16 fleet will provide security and stability in Greece.

The HAF has a fleet of 155 aircraft, but only 85 will receive this V upgrade. Why is this?

The HAF and the Ministry of Defense evaluated various alternatives and decided on this approach as the most cost-effective solution to meet their operational requirements. The F-16 Block 50 aircraft can be upgraded at a later time, utilizing the removed LRUs (line replaceable units) from the 85 upgraded aircraft. If the HAF goes through with this, they will have a total fleet of 123 upgraded aircraft capable of performing until 2045 and beyond.

What is Lockheed Martin’s experience with the Greek offset benefits programs, and how can Greek defense industries make the most of new opportunities and projects?

Over the past 25 years, and within the framework of Greece’s F-16 fighter acquisition program, Lockheed Martin has successfully implemented a number of offset benefit (OB) programs aiming at the upgrade of the HAF’s operational capabilities and the enhancement of the domestic defense industry. The technology transfer to the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) and other Greek companies, and the development of new infrastructure, have constituted basic factors for the development of the Greek defense industry. In most cases, we did not stop at the narrow confines of the OBs, but willingly advanced our cooperation further; for example, C-130J parts were co-produced at HAI even though this was not stipulated in any OB contract. The specific subcontract work was awarded to HAI despite strong international competition and the pressures exerted by a number of countries, several of which already have or intend to acquire the C-130J.

Greek defense industries must continue to deliver a high level of quality and manufacture at competitive levels. Continuous performance improvement and maintaining competitiveness over other subcontractors are essential in the demanding and highly competitive aerospace sector.

How do you see the Hellenic Air Force reinforcing its deterrence capabilities?

Today more than ever, Greece needs to participate in large, proven international defense programs in order to increase its deterrence capability and enhance its domestic defense industry. With the F-16 upgrade program now under implementation, the next step for the HAF would be the acquisition of fifth generation fighter aircraft.

Lockheed Martin is the only company in the world designing and manufacturing the only fifth generation fighters: the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II JSF. And while the F-22 is available exclusively to the U.S. Air Force, the F-35 is the embodiment of Lockheed Martin’s cutting-edge technologies and modern design, development and production processes. It is an aircraft that will transform operational concepts and the way we fight.

The F-35 isn’t just a new aircraft; it’s an ambitious, revolutionary program that replaces more than eight different types of fighter aircraft and offers its users unprecedented capabilities. The F-35 is the only available fifth generation aircraft and the world’s first fighter designed to operate based on five key parameters: economy, lethality, survivability, maintainability and sophisticated connectivity. Its sophisticated flight characteristics, coupled with stealth capability, multi-mission capability, extended range, state-of-the-art sensors that allow for data fusion and net-centric operations—and, of course, reliability and ease of maintenance—ensure it will play a leading role in air combat in the 21st century.

What can you tell us about Lockheed Martin’s longstanding relationship with the Hellenic Armed Forces?

Lockheed Martin has had a strategic cooperation with the Hellenic Armed Forces for over 75 years. During this period, we have performed with excellence, and we have delivered products and services of top quality and performance. We are proud for this achievement.

The F-16 V Upgrades will provide the HAF with dramatically improved situational awareness and increase the lethality of the world’s most successful, combat-proven fourth generation fighter aircraft. The F-35 should be the HAF’s next major step to modernization.

The F-35 Lightning II integrates advanced stealth technology into a highly agile, supersonic aircraft that affords the pilot unprecedented situational awareness and unmatched survivability. The F-35 redefines the multirole fighter. As new threats emerge, it is more important than ever for NATO-allied fighter fleets to fly the same platform, allowing more interoperability in joined missions and increasing allied efficiency while decreasing the cost of deploying troops.

Equally critical is the airlift capability of our Armed Forces. To date, 17 nations have chosen the C-130J Super Hercules to meet tactical airlift needs—for good reason. The C-130J delivers results with an unmatched combination of versatility and proven capabilities to support any mission, anytime, anywhere. Designed and developed with multi-mission requirements in mind—combat delivery, civil air freight, air-to-air refueling, special operations, disaster relief, firefighting and humanitarian missions—the C-130J has been produced or modified to support 17 different mission requirements. No aircraft in design, production and operation can match the C-130J in terms of this versatility.

In addition, let me address the Hellenic Navy’s P-3 Maritime Patrol Aircraft. This will provide the Hellenic Navy and Armed Forces with new indigenous Greek mission integration and management system. These operational assets will have integrated intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), command and control (C2), antisubmarine warfare (ASW), and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) capabilities.

Lockheed Martin’s four business areas—Aeronautics; Rotary and Mission Systems (RMS); Missiles and Fire Control (MFC); and Space Systems—represent the best aerospace business and industrial partners Greece can have. Our focus is on meeting our commitments for national security in the most transparent, ethical and affordable manner. We are powered by innovation and guided by integrity and with an unwavering commitment to our customers, their affordability, their challenges and missions.

At Lockheed Martin we stretch the boundaries of the imagination, chase new horizons in advancing technology and produce the highest quality products for the protection of nations around the world.

Lockheed Martin is committed to our enduring partnerships in Greece, to delivering technology, research and development opportunities, sustainable high technology jobs, growth, exports and uncompromising operational capability for Greece’s Armed Forces.

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