James Robinson, International Business Development F-16, Lockheed Martin Speech
Distinguished guests – thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of the Lockheed Martin corporation.
I am grateful to the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, in particular Mr Peter Ivanov and his team for hosting this event and for the excellent American Thanksgiving dinner last night.
I’m honoured to share the floor today with the US Ambassador to Bulgaria, His Excellency Eric Rubin. We share a common appreciation of the importance of the relationship between the United States and Bulgaria.
It will come as no surprise to you that I am here primarily to talk to you about the F-16 Block 70 offer for the Bulgarian Air Force, and it will also not surprise you that I consider it to be the best aircraft in its class in the multi-role fighter aircraft competition. But as a former F-16 pilot myself, I may be accused of some bias.
This latest version of the F-16 offers a high level of reassurance for those countries operating it, as evidenced by the numbers. More than 4,600 F-16s have been procured to date, with 26 countries operating the type today. The F-16 has flown more than 400,000 combat sorties and has an undefeated air-to-air combat record, with 75 victories versus no losses.
It is also unbeatable in terms of versatility, adaptability and interoperability. Nearly 140 versions of the F-16 have been produced and tailored to the specific needs of each customer, and more than 1,000 upgrades have been delivered to customers around the world.
F-16 Block 70 Advantages
So we know the aircraft has an excellent pedigree, but what about the future?
The Block 70 and 72 aircraft are the most advanced F-16s to date and a testament to the unbeaten track record of these fighter aircraft. The F-16 brings together superior aircraft performance and robust mission radius capability and air patrol times.
Today’s F-16 leverages proven and mature systems which are complemented by state-of-the-art developments in fighter aircraft technology. These include a systems suite that provides the pilot with an awareness of the combat space that is unmatched by any other 4th generation aircraft.
Lockheed Martin has also integrated technologies derived from the F-22 and F-35, including the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) APG-83 radar that provides F-16s with 5th generation fighter radar capability – there is a 95 per cent software commonality with the F-35 radar and more than 70 per cent hardware commonality.
Amongst its many benefits, the AESA radar provides improved detection and tracking ranges, the ability to track 20 or more targets and the ability to conduct both air-to-air AND air-to-surface operations at the same time.
Its performance as a single-engine fighter is also unmatched – it achieves 50% better time to climb, its acceleration is 35 per cent better and it has a 50% greater air-frame life than its nearest competitors – the new F-16 Block 70 aircraft are now certified to 12,000 flight hours each, which is well beyond the original 8,000 hour lifespan.
The F-16 Block 70 has 40% greater combat air patrol time and nearly 50% greater weapons carrying capability over other single-engine fighter aircraft at a cost much lower than two-engine fighters. A range of innovative safety features are included in the F-16 including the one-of-a-kind Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System – or Auto-GCAS – which has already saved the lives of seven F-16 pilots around the world.
The F-16’s performance, capability, low life-cycle costs, and ease of maintenance are all aspects that will make the difference between the success and failure of the mission, and there is no mission more critical than defending Bulgarian sovereign air space. The F-16 is the best choice for the Bulgarian Air Force pilots; providing them with unmatched maneuverability, advanced avionics, AESA radar, and the advanced Helmet Mounted Cueing System, will give your pilots unmatched situational awareness, and offensive capability against the enemy.
We anticipate potential for at least 400 new orders for this new breed of F-16, while also having four customers who are upgrading their existing F-16 fleets with these new technologies. As a result of this continued demand we have a new F-16 assembly facility in Greenville, South Carolina and we expect to see the F-16 flying into 2045 and beyond.
The Joint Offer
The joint US Government and Lockheed Martin offer includes an opportunity for training Bulgarian Air Force personnel with the US Air Force, who bring a huge amount of experience to bear in operating and sustaining this aircraft. Helping customers transition from legacy aircraft to the F-16, this offer includes basic and advanced flight training, and the opportunity to train all other personnel who play active roles in aircraft maintenance, sustainment and flight operations.
We must also remember the role Bulgaria plays in NATO – the F-16 is fully interoperable with NATO forces. Indeed, Slovakia and Croatia have recently chosen to make the F-16 the backbone of their respective air forces. Joining other F-16 operators in NATO – Poland, Greece, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and the United States would enable Bulgaria to take advantage of joint training with NATO partners, thus ensuring full preparedness for whatever threats may emerge.
I could talk much further about the F-16, but this is a critical and strategic investment for Bulgaria and I think there is no better solution available.
Thank you again for the opportunity to talk to you today, and I again thank Ambassador Rubin for his participation.
F-16 Promotional Video