The U.S. Air Force on Dec. 11 awarded Lockheed Martin [LMT] a contract over three other bidders worth potentially $900 million for depot work on the company’s F-16 fighter.

Under the contract, the company is to open a U.S.-based facility to support F-16 maintenance and service life extension program (SLEP) modification efforts to ease the load on Hill AFB, Utah to keep the planes flying through 2046 (Defense Daily, Feb. 28)

“Support will include all aircraft modifications, unplanned drop-in maintenance, time compliance technical orders, scheduled inspections and contract field team support,” the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) said.

To keep the fleet of more than 900 F-16 Fighting Falcons — first delivered in 1978 by General Dynamics [GD], now developed by Lockheed Martin— flying for several more decades, the Air Force must perform a series of radar, communications and other systems upgrades that increase its connectivity, target ability and agility.

A new active electronic scanned array (AESA) radar, the APG-83 scalable agile beam radar (SABR) by Northrop Grumman [NOC] is at the top of the priorities list.