Lockheed Martin officials have said the aerospace giant plans to move the production of its F-16 fighter jet from Fort Worth, Texas to Greenville.
Leslie Farmer, communications lead for Lockheed Martin’s Greenville Operation, confirmed the move to GSA Business Report.
The move could add between 200-250 new jobs in Greenville. Farmer said it will take nearly two years to fully transition the production line to Greenville and there was no timeline on when hiring for new positions would take place.
The company will move F-16 production to Greenville and expand its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assembly line in Fort Worth, according to Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president for Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics division. Carvalho was quoted by defense website Defense One.
Carvalho told the website Greenville was chosen because the company already has operations at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center.
“When you restart a line, there’s going to be cost there to get it back up and running again,” Carvalho said in the Defense One interview. “With the cost structure that we have at Greenville, that’s an enabler for us being able to stand the line up there.”
Farmer said the last F-16 coming off the Fort Worth production line will be in September. Once that happens, the production transition will begin. Farmer said despite “dwindling” orders, Lockheed Martin is still “actively and aggressively” trying to market the F-16.
According to Defense One, Bahrain, Indonesia and Colombia are potential buyers of the F-16. Additionally, India is considering an order but may be interested in producing those aircraft in India. Carvalho told Defense One, if Lockheed Martin wins the India contract — it is competing with Boeing — F-16s would be produced in Greenville until a factory in India is completed.
The Greenville Operations facility was recently chosen to produce the company’s T-50A fighter trainer. That aircraft is Lockheed Martin’s entrant into the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training competition. The T-50A is an iteration of the T-50 trainer developed in a partnership with Korea Aerospace Industries.
Lockheed Martin is competing with the team of Boeing and Saab, the team of Leonardo and DRS, Sierra Nevada and Turkish Aerospace Industries, Textron as well as late entrant Stavatti for the nearly $11 billion contract that includes production of the aircraft and a full training system. The Air Force is expected to make its decision on the contract later this year or early 2018.
Farmer said if the Air Force awards the training program to Lockheed Martin, there is no facility expansion planned at SC-TAC.
“We have enough existing capacity to where we won’t have to expand our facilities,” Farmer said. “We’re able to support the T-50A, if that comes from the Air Force, and the F-16 with existing infrastructure.”