Lockheed Martin announced on 22nd November that elements of all of the F-16 jets manufactured would be produced at the PZL Mielec facility, owned by Lockheed. Defence24.pl asked the President of the company, Janusz Zakręcki, to comment on that matter.
The launch of production of large F-16 structures is yet another, and important milestone in the development of PZL Mielec and the diversification of our production efforts. Within the framework of this programme, by 2022 we would be manufacturing rear fuselage, fuselage center, cockpit, and cockpit side panels and front section structures, for all of the manufactured F-16 fighters. Then, those structures would be sent to Greenville in South Carolina, where the final assembly line for the F-16 jets is located.
Zakręcki noted that preparatory steps preceding the new manufacturing effort are already underway. He added that modernized infrastructure would be put into use here, that had seen prior use in the manufacturing of the prototypes of the last of the jets manufactured at PZL Mielec - the I-22 Iryda.
Implementation and preparatory works are underway. To launch F-16 manufacturing, we have modernized a section of the legacy hall that used to be used in the production of the I-22 combat trainer jet prototypes. We are speaking of 8 thousand square meters of office and manufacturing area. Soon, manufacturing machinery will be placed there, to start the first deliveries of PZL-made airframe structures, in 2023. One can say that thanks to these manufacturing efforts, military jet aircraft return to PZL Mielec.
Currently, PZL Mielec acts as an important nexus of the Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin supply chain. The facility also offers S-70i Black Hawk helicopters, designed for military use, and uniformed/rescue services. Recently PZL Mielec has secured a contract concerning rescue Black Hawks for Romania. The company's bid was selected during a competitive procurement procedure. PZL Mielec also delivers the M28 airframes that serve as a base platform of the MC-145B Coyote, proposed to the US SOCOM by the Sierra Nevada company.
The brand new F-16s are an important element of Lockheed Martin's portfolio. Bahrain, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Morocco, and Taiwan have all decided to procure this platform. Turkey is also willing to purchase the new Vipers. These are delivered in the F-16 Block 70/72 variant, also referred to as the F-16V, with new avionics, computer systems, and AN/APG-83 AESA radar. Morocco and Taiwan are also modernizing some portion of their existing Viper fleets to match the new standard - in parallel to additional procurement. Relevant steps towards an upgrade have also been taken by Greece. More than 130 KF-16 jets operated by South Korea are also about to receive a similar upgrade package.