ORLANDO, Fla. – The Air Force is on schedule to deliver a major maintenance depot contract by the end of the year that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade, an official said Feb. 27.

As the service moves through a series of modernization efforts for the F-16 fighter fleet, it is looking for an established industry depot to support the government-owned facility and ensure it completes the upgrades on time. The request for proposals was released in May 2019, and the service is working through source selection and expects to award a contract this summer, said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Program Executive Officer for the Fighter/Bomber portfolio at the Air Force’s Lifecycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The ceiling for the contract award will be $900 million, Collins said in an interview at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium here. The winning company will provide overflow depot space for the F-16 fleet as it undergoes a series of modernization efforts over the next decade.

“We’ve got so much more work coming on the F-16. It’s more than the depot can handle,” Collins said, adding that the contract is expected to “cover the gap” for depot space over that time period.

“Longer term, once that starts leveling back out, we’ll continue back just to a government depot,” he added.

The industry depots will have to be ready to go at the time of award, he noted. Planning and work packages will be developed upon contract award and Collins said he expects that by the end of the calendar year, “we should have work going on and F-16s going in.”

The service’s current depot at Hill AFB, Utah, is already taking on more work than it has capacity for, he noted. The government depot will be maxed out with as much maintenance and modification work as it can handle, and the industry depot will take what’s left over.

F-16 Program Manager Col. Jeff Gates previously told reporters at a 2018 Air Force conference in Dayton, Ohio, that he envisioned setting up a rapid-turn assembly line where work was completed on an aircraft over 15 to 20 days, before the F-16 was returned to the fleet (Defense Daily, Sept. 14, 2018).

The upgrades include a new active electronic scanned array (AESA) radar to be provided by Northrop Grumman [NOC]. The Air Force awarded the company a contract in 2017 for its APG-83 scalable agile beam radar.

Meanwhile, the service awarded Northrop Grumman a $262.2 million firm-fixed price modification to the previously awarded F-16 AESA radar contract, to include 15 engineering and manufacturing development and 90 production radars, as well as associated support equipment and spares, per a Friday award notice. Work will be performed at Linthicum Heights, Maryland, and is expected to be completed by December 2022. The new modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract up to $553.4 million.

Additional upgrades include a new digital radar warning receiver and a modular missions computer upgrade that will improve data communications, per the Air Force.