Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) produced 140 KF-16C/D Block 52 fighters under license from Lockheed Martin in the 1990s. The F/A-18 Hornet had originally won the Korea Fighter Program (KFP) competition, but disputes over costs and accusations of bribery led the Korean government to withdraw the award and select the F-16 instead. These aircraft are based on American F-16C (single seat) and F-16D (two seat) Block 52 aircraft. Designated the KF-16 the first 12 aircraft were delivered to Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) in December 1994. Almost 2,500 parts are changed from the original F-16C/D. The KF-16 is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan engine. This engine powers late models of the F-16 and F-15E Strike Eagle.
Originally, the KF-16 was equipped with the F100-PW-229 Improved Performance Engine, ASPJ internal ECM, APG-68(V)7 radar, LANTIRN targeting and navigation system, AMRAAM, HARM, and SLAM anti-ship missile capabilities, and advanced IFF. JDAMs capability was added by ROKAF later on; ROKAF developed the software, successfully carried out 3 tests, and finished pilot training at the end of January 2011. The South Korean F-16s can also employ LIG Nex1’s ALQ-200K radar jammer and other locally developed tactical ELINT and EO/IR targeting pods. This South Korean aircraft has an APG-68(V)7 multi-mode radar. Other features include a wide-angle Head-Up Display (HUD). This aircraft carries chaff/flare dispenser for self-defense against incoming missiles. The KF-16 also has a radar jamming system.
The KF-16 has air-to-air and ground-attack capabilities. Furthermore it can fly in all weather conditions and carry smart weapons. This multi-role fighter has 7 hardpoints and 2 wing tip mounts. These mounts are used to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles. The KF-16 can also carry beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, such as AIM-120 AMRAAM, or air-to-surface missiles such as AGM-65D, cruise missiles, or anti-ship missiles. This fighter can also carry free-fall or precision-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), rocket pods, or fuel tanks. There is an integral M61 Vulcan 20 mm 6-barrel cannon.
In late 2011, Korea kicked off the contest for KF-16’s mid-life upgrade, which will incorporate, among others, a new AESA radar. The radar candidates are Northrop Grumman’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) and Raytheon’s RANGR, which won the contract. The variant to which the planes will be improved is reported to be Lockheed Martin’s newly developed F-16V. Lockheed Martin was awarded a $1.2 billion contract to retrofit the 134 KF-16s and upgrade them to the advanced F-16V configurationâ€”the latest and technologically most advanced version of the fourth generation fighter jet. The upgrade of all 134 aircraft is expected to be completed by November 2025.