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Slovakia receives first two F-16C/D Block 70

The American company Lockheed Martin formally delivered the first two out of 14 F-16C/D Block 70 multi-role aircraft to the Slovak Air Force.

On Wednesday, January 10th, Lockheed Martin announced on social media that they had formally handed over the first two F-16C/D Block 70 multi-role aircraft to the Slovak Air Force (Vzdušné síly Ozbrojených síl Slovenskej Republiky).

Slovak two-seat F-16D Block 70 / Photo: Lockheed Martin

The delivered aircraft represent a single-seat F-16C Block 70 variant with the tactical number 1001, which had its maiden flight on September 29, 2023, and a two-seat F-16D Block 70 variant with the tactical number 1101, which had its maiden flight on December 15, 2023. Both aircraft were flown from the company’s facility in Greenville, South Carolina, where the assembly line for the latest versions of the F-16 family is located. The official presentation of the first F-16C took place on September 7, 2023.

These aircraft will now be transferred to the Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, where a total of 22 pilots and 160 technical ground support personnel from the Slovak Air Force will undergo training on the new type of combat aircraft. The training program will conclude in 2026, and some of the aircraft will remain there until that time. However, the remaining aircraft will begin arriving in Slovakia as early as the second quarter of 2024.

Slovakia made the decision to purchase American aircraft on July 11, 2018, rejecting the Swedish offer from Saab Defense and Security for the JAS 39 Gripen. The F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft were chosen as replacements for the 11 operational MiG-29AS/UBS fighter jets, which were then part of the 1st Fighter Squadron (1. Bojová letka) of the Tactical Wing “Otto Smik” (Taktické krídlo Otta Smika), stationed at Sliač Air Base (On September 28, 2019, the twelfth MiG-29 crashed).

The package for Slovakia was valued at approximately 2.91 billion USD and included, in addition to the aircraft themselves, AN/APG-83 SABR radar stations with active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology, AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and GBU-12, GBU-38, GBU-49, and Mk 82 bombs. Government-to-Government agreement worth over 1.6 billion EUR was concluded in December 2018 (the final order value was reduced through negotiations).

On July 31, 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense signed a contract with Lockheed Martin worth $799,955,939 for their production and deliveries, with a deadline set for January 31, 2024. Interestingly, the initial plan was to purchase used American F-16A/B aircraft that were stored by the U.S. Air Force (USAF), but the costs of refurbishment and modernization, totaling 220 million EUR, proved to be too high.

On October 27, 2021, the then Minister of Defense of Slovakia, Jaroslav Nad’, took part in a symbolic ceremony marking the start of production of the discussed F-16 aircraft, which received the serial number EY-01. He then met with a group of Slovak pilots who were undergoing training on the F-16 at the international training center located at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

Meanwhile, on April 14, 2023, Minister Nad’ announced that the government had delivered all 13 promised MiG-29AS/UBS fighter jets to Ukraine. Until the Slovak F-16s achieve operational readiness, the country’s airspace is being defended by Poland and the Czech Republic.

By the end of 2023, Lockheed Martin had produced, in addition to the discussed two Slovak aircraft, another two (out of 16 ordered) F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft for Bahrain. Currently, the assembly of the first (also out of 16 ordered) aircraft for Bulgaria is underway.

Lockheed Martin has received orders for 136 F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft so far, and this number will soon be increased to 148. These orders include not only Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Bahrain but also Jordan (12 units), Morocco (25 units), and Taiwan (66 units). Additionally, the aircraft are being offered to India (as the F-21 variant), Ukraine, the Philippines, Colombia, and Vietnam. There seems to be a potential breakthrough in the case of 40 F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft for Turkey, after Ankara gave the green light to Sweden joining NATO.

Lockheed Martin subsidiary PZL Mielec is involved in the production of the latest F-16s. On August 29, 2023, PZL Mielec announced the completion of the production of the first rear fuselage structure of this aircraft.


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