General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon for the Republic of Korea

Last revised September 22, 2015


The Republic of Korea faces a heavily-armed intransigent North Korea which is equipped with up to 600 tactical jet aircraft. In pursuit of newer and more capable weapons, in December of 1981, the Republic of Korea signed a letter of agreement for the purchase of 36 F-16C/D Block 32 Fighting Falcons. This made the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) the first foreign operator of the F-16C/D model of the Fighting Falcon. This proagram was known as Peace Bridge. These new F-16 aircraft were intended to augment the F-4D/E Phantoms and the F-5E Tiger IIs, which were at that time the primary combat aircraft serving with the ROKAF.

The Korean program was christened Victory Falcon in 1986 by Chun Doo Hwan, president of the Republic of Korea. Four more F-16D Block 32s were ordered in June of 1988. The ROKAF's F-16s currently serve with the 11th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Taegu AB in southern South Korea.

In the more ambitious Korean Fighter Program (previously known as the F-X program), the F-16 lost out to the F/A-18 Hornet. On December 18, 1989, the Korean government announced that they were going to acquire 120 examples of the F/A-18. The decision was based in part on a lucrative offset offer under which most of the F/A-18s would be manufactured in Korea.

However, the planned purchase of 120 Hornets by Korea got bogged down in funding technicalities, and Korea opted for 120 more F-16s instead. They will all be manufactured to the Block 52D standard, and will have upgraded avionics and Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engines. They will be equipped to carry the LANTIRN night navigation/targeting pod system and will be able to carry and fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM and the AGM-88 HARM antiradiation missile. Under the terms of the agreement, Lockheed at Fort Worth will manufacture the first 12 aircraft, the next 36 will be delivered in kit form and assembled in South Korea, whereas the last 72 will built in South Korea by Samsung Aerospace.

South Korea took delivery of the first of these aircraft on December 2, 1994. The first five F-16s to be assembled locally by Samsung from Lockheed Martin-supplied knockdown kits were accepted on November 9, 1995 at the Sachon air base.

In July of 2000, it was announced that a contract had been signed for the production of 20 more Block 52 F-16C/Ds. They were to be built by Korean Aerospace Industries, and were to be powered by F100-PW-229 engines, and will be equipped with the ASPJ internal countermeasures system, APG-68(V)7 radar, LANTIRN targeting and navigation systems. They would be capable of carrying AMRAAAM, HARM, and SLAM missiles. First delivery was scheduled for July 2003.

In May 2009, the South Korean government announced upgrade plans for its KF-16C/D fleet’s radar and armament, as part of the 2010-2014 arms acquisition and management package being submitted to President Lee Myung-bak for approval. The ROKAF operates about 135 of the “KF-16” fighters, many of which were built in Korea under a $5.5 billion licensing agreement from 1994-2004. Key upgrades will include new radars to replace the existing APG-68v5/v7 systems, avionics and computers, and improving cabling and databuses to MIL-STD-1760 so that the aircraft will be able to carry GPS-guided weapons, AIM-9X Sidewider missiles, and other new equipment.

Korea had beguin to consider the acquisition of a new fighter, the program being designated F-X Phase III. Contenders were the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle, and the F-35 Lightning II. Korea had shown interest in the F-22 Raptor, but the United States Department of Defense would not permit the export of such an advanced stealth fighter. On November 22, 2013, it was announced that the RoKAF will purchase 40 F-35A Lightning II fighters, with an option for 20 more. In addition, the Korean Aerospace Insdustries (in partnership with the Indonesian Air Force) had begun to develop an indigenous advanced multirole fighter, known as KF-X. But F-X III deliveries were delayed until 2018 and the KF-X would not enter service until 2023. This left aging F-4 and F-5 having to soldier on for longer than expected. In March 2014, the South Korean Air Force announced that it was considering leasing F-16s operated by the USAF.

Serials of ROKAF F-16s:

84-1370/1373		General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon 
				for South Korea as 41370/41373
85-1384/1385		General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon 
				for South Korea
85-1574/1583		General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon
				to South Korea as 51574/51583
85-1584/1585		General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon 
				to South Korea as 51584,51585
86-1586/1597		General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon  
				for South Korea
87-1653/1660		General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon 
				for South Korea as 71653/71660.
90-0938/0941		General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon
				sold to South Korea as 00938/00941
01-0510/0524		Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 52 Fighting Falcon 
				MSN KC-81/KC-85.  For Republic of Korea as RoKAF serials 01-510/524 under Peace Bridge III.
				Assembled by Samsung
01-0525/0529		Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 52 Fighting Falcon
				cn KD-41/KD-45.  For Republic of Korea as RoKAF serials 01-524/529 under Peace Bridge III

Serials for F-16s built wholly or in kit form:

92-4000			Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Block 52G Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4001			Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Block 52H Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4002/4003		Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Block 52J Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4004/4008		Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Block 52K Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4009/4013		Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Block 52L Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4014/4017		Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Block 52M Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4018/4027		Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Block 52N Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4028/4031		Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16D Block 52G Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4032/4037		Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16D Block 52H Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4038			Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16D Block 52K Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4039			Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16D Block 52L Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4040/4041		Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16D Block 52M Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
92-4042/4047		Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16D Block 52N Fighting Falcon
				for Korea
93-4048/4099		Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 52D Fighting Falcon
				c/n KC-29/KC-80.  To South Korea
93-4100/4119		Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 52D Fighting Falcon
				c/n KD-21/KD-40.  To South Korea
93-4049/4100		Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 52D Fighting Falcon
				c/n KC-29/KC-80.  To South Korea
93-4101/4120		Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 52D Fighting Falcon
				c/n KD-21/KD-40.  To South Korea


This list is incomplete and inconsistent (the numbers do not add up to the number ordered), and I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has additions or corrections.

Sources:


  1. Combat Aircraft F-16, Doug Richardson, Crescent, 1992.

  2. General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors, John Wegg, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  3. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

  4. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  5. F-16 Fighting Falcon--A Major Review of the West's Universal Warplane, Robert F. Dorr, World Airpower Journal, Spring 1991.

  6. The World's Great Interceptor Aircraft, Gallery, 1989.

  7. Modern Military Aircraft--F-16 Viper, Lou Drendel, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1992.

  8. Lockheed F-16 Variants, Part 1, World Airpower Journal, Volume 21, Summer 1995.

  9. E-mail from Ben Marselis

  10. Airscene Headlines, Air International Sept 2000.

  11. General Dynamics F-16 Fighing Falcon operators, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Dynamics_F-16_Fighting_Falcon_operators