The U.S. Air Force on Dec. 9 awarded Illinois-based AAR Corp. a contract worth potentially $365 million over the next decade for the maintenance of 80 European-based F-16 fighters by Lockheed Martin [LMT].

The award displaces the Belgian company, Societe Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aeronautique SA (SABCA), which has been the incumbent F-16 maintainer since 2001. SABCA has a long history with the F-16 dating back to 1977 when SABCA began final assembly of European F-16s in Gosselles, Belgium.

The Air Force awarded SABCA a continuation F-16 maintenance contract on Feb. 27–a contract worth up to $250 million over 10 years to extend the European F-16 service life from 8,000 to 12,000 flight hours, SABCA said. But the award was challenged, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) advised the Air Force to re-open the competition, said Nathan Lee, a procuring contracting officer (PCO) with the F-16 System Program Office at Hill AFB, Utah.

Once SABCA receives a debriefing on the Dec. 9 award to AAR Corp., SABCA has 10 days to protest the award, if the company wishes to do so.

“AAR will provide aircraft depot-level maintenance and repair primarily for F-16 aircraft allocated to USAFE [United States Air Forces Europe] and to support possible overflow requirements for all USAF F-16 aircraft,” AAR Corp. said in a Dec. 16 statement. “Additionally, AAR will send Contractor Field Teams (CFT) to perform depot-level repairs on any F-16 aircraft at any location on an as-needed basis. Work will include F-16 avionics and structural depot-level maintenance and modifications, Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) modifications, drop-in maintenance, and full strip, paint, and corrosion control on selected aircraft required to sustain the F-16 fleet throughout Europe.”

John Holmes, the president and CEO of AAR, said in the company statement that the F-16 MRO win “is another example of AAR’s successful strategic expansion into the government end market, and we are excited to extend our support to the F-16 platform.”

AAR has the counsel of former Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord, who was elected to the AAR board of directors in April.