Lockheed Martin [LMT] officially brought home the $1.2 billion contract to upgrade a portion of South Korea’s F-16 fleet it has long coveted.

The deal covers radar, avionics and flight-control upgrades for 134 of the South Korean Air Force’s 170 KF-16C/D Block 50 and 52 fighter jets. The upgrades are based on the advanced F-16V configuration, which incorporates an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, a large-format, high-resolution center pedestal display and a high-volume and high-speed data bus.

“We truly appreciate the trust and confidence the Republic of Korea has placed in us with this contract,” said Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 program, in a statement. “These upgrades are a critical piece of South Korea’s national defense and highlight Lockheed Martin’s commitment to the full lifecycle of the F-16, from production to through-life sustainment.”

The Air Force's F-16D fighter jet. Photo: Lockheed Martin.
The Air Force’s F-16D fighter jet. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

South Korea is now all-in on Lockheed Martin fighters. The country already chose the F-35 for its F-X program and has signed a letter of offer and acceptance for 40 conventional-landing and takeoff variants.

Myoung-jin Chang, minister of Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), said Monday that in both jets the nation is intent on acquiring technologies it only can get from U.S. manufacturers. Prime among Korea’s military hardware needs is an AESA radar for its jets, he said during a forum on U.S.-Korean defense-industry cooperation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Upgrading its F-16 fleet will provide that capability in the near-term until it takes deliveries of F-35As between 2018 and 2021.

The contract for the South Korean upgrade is a foreign military sales contract issued by the Air Force and was awarded base on a sole-source selection. Work will be performed at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, manufacturing facility where it also builds the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“As the original manufacturer and design authority of the F-16, Lockheed Martin is uniquely qualified to design, engineer, develop, integrate and sustain a complete F-16 weapons system solution tailored to customer requirements,” the company said.

The F-16 is one of the most numerous fighter aircraft in history, with more than 4,750 delivered since the aircraft was introduced in the late 1970s. As the airframes aged and their systems increasingly outdated, defense contractors launched a contentious bidding war to provide upgrades for both the U.S. and two dozen foreign operational F-16 fleets.

Korea’s business initially went to BAE Systems in 2012, which offered to outfit the country’s jets with Raytheon’s [RTN] advanced combat AESA radar and AN/ALR-69A electronic warfare kit, a Link 16 datalink, glass cockpit instruments and other upgrades.

Citing unacceptable cost growth, the Korean government in 2014 canceled that contract, which mirrored the one just awarded to Lockheed Martin.