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Lockheed expects to begin deliveries of F-16 combat jets in 2024 (June 8) By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Lockheed Martin is seen at Euronaval, the world naval defence exhibition in Le Bourget near Paris, France, October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD

(Corrects to remove reference to the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in paragraph 2)

(Reuters) -Lockheed Martin Corp expects to produce its new-build F-16 fighter jets next year and commence deliveries in 2024, its chief financial officer Jesus Malave said on Wednesday.

The company has a list of key U.S. allies including Bahrain, Taiwan, Slovakia and Jordan eager to purchase the jet.

Malave flagged that hiring new workforce and training employees to build the aircraft was a “little bit of a challenge” for the company than expected.

“So the ramp is taking a little bit longer. As a result, we will probably see some cost burden on our initial contract there,” Malave said while speaking at the UBS Global Industrials and Transportation Conference.

The F-16 is considered a highly maneuverable aircraft proven in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack.

In April, the U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of up to eight F-16 aircraft and related equipment to Bulgaria, in a deal valued at $1.673 billion, and said Lockheed will be the principal contractor.

“There’s a lot of interest in the aircraft. I think an aspiration probably the next few years would be probably [production of] 3 per month,” Malave added.

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