Posted on February 03 2022
The F-16 "Fighting Falcon" (known as "Viper" to its operators) is a single-engine multirole fighter. It was initially designed and produced by General Dynamics up until 1993 when the company sold the Fort Worth production line to Lockheed Martin. More than 4,500 F-16s have been produced and more than 2,800 aircraft remain in operation with 25 nations, making the type among the most prolific fighter families in the post-World War II period. Starting with the F-16 Block 30 and 32 in 1987, operators have had a choice of two powerplant options: the Pratt & Whitney (P&W) F100 and the General Electric (GE) F110 turbofan families. Lockheed Martin continues to offer new enhancements and upgrades for the type which is expected to remain in service past 2040.
Features (F-16 Block 70/72)
In order to achieve the Air Force’s ambitious maneuverability requirements, General Dynamics’ Harry Hillaker sought to design lightest possible airframe around the most powerful engine available. 78.4% of the F-16’s airframe consists of lightweight aluminum alloys. Other major airframe materials include titanium for the engine housing and composite materials on the horizontal and vertical tail. The radome and base of the vertical tail are comprised of fiberglass. The Block 70/72 has an empty weight of 20,300 lbs. or approximately two thirds that of an F-15C. For the Block 70/72, Lockheed increased the airframe service life from 8,000 hrs. to 12,000 hrs. while retaining the 9G/-3G load factor performance.
The F-16 design introduced several novel technologies to heighten agility and maneuverability. The use of forebody strakes, or leading-edge root extensions (LEX), both increased lift at high angles of attack (AoA) by 25% and resulted in a statically unstable aerodynamic configuration, improving pitch performance. Pitch rate is a highly desirable trait in maneuvering engagements as the more quickly the AoA is increased, the faster the aircraft can begin to turn. Furthermore, the ability to point the nose in any direction is vital for both target acquisition and engagement. The F-16 was the first fighter to introduce computer input driven fly-by-wire flight controls, an innovation which was necessary to control a relaxed stability aircraft. Hillaker originally envisioned using twin, canted vertical tails but the vortices generated by the LEXs at moderate angles of attack resulted in a substantial loss of directional stability. A large single tail suffered from less buffeting at high AoA while providing sufficient control authority.
The F-16 airframe utilizes full-length leading-edge slats and trailing edge flaperons to adjust the wing’s camber – the curve of the wing – to modulate lift and drag during maneuvering. The wing itself is blended into the fuselage so they operate as a single lifting body. The sum of these features resulted in an aircraft which was more maneuverable than the higher-end F-15 it was meant to complement in many flight regimes. The F-16 is controllable to 26.5° degrees AoA. At its corner plateau (optimal turning environment) the F-16 can sustain a 20° per second turn rate relative to the F-15C’s 15° per second. According to a Slovak government report, the Block 70 takes 25.3 seconds to accelerate from Mach 0.8 to 1.2. Compared to twin engine air superiority fighters like the F-15, F-22 and Eurofighter, the F-16 lacks high-altitude, high-speed performance. For example, the F-16 has a service ceiling of 50,000 ft. and top speed of Mach 2.0 versus the F-15’s 60,000 ft.and Mach 2.5. Such capabilities are useful to impart additional range to AAMs for BVR engagements.
More than 1,700 U.S. and international F-16s have received HAVE GLASS survivability treatments (see U.S. upgrades for additional details).
The core of the Block 70/72’s avionics suite is the Northrop Grumman APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). The 10-kW class active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar consists of approximately 1,000 TRMs. Northrop Grumman maintains that 95% of SABR’s modes and software are derived from the APG-81 AESA used aboard the F-35. Because SABR was developed as a drop-in replacement for the legacy APG-68(V)9 mechanically scanned array, SABR utilizes the existing power weight and cooling capacity of the baseline F-16, limiting its sustained power output. The APG-83 has a maximum detection range of 160 nautical miles (nm) or 296 km against aerial targets. Against a 1m^2 radar cross section (RCS) target, the APG-83 has a range of approximately 72 nm (134.5 km) relative to the 38 nm (70 km) for the preceding APG-68(V)9. SABR can maintain more than 20 simultaneous aerial target tracks across a 120° azimuth arc in front of the aircraft. Alternatively, power can be concentrated on six high-priority tracks. In an air to surface mode, SABR can map ground targets at ranges between 10-160 nm and is capable of ground moving target indication (GMTI).
Northrop Grumman markets the APG-83 as “having robust electronic protection for operations in dense RF environments.” The APG-83 can focus its radar energy to concentrate on specific parts of an adversary aircraft, a capability relevant to defeating deceptive electronic countermeasure techniques using the whole aircraft as the basis for the jammer’s skin return. SABR is also fully integrated with L3Harris’ ALQ-254(V)1 Viper Shield electronic countermeasure suite. Viper Shield is a digital radio-frequency memory (DRFM) based jamming system which is also expected to provide enhanced situational awareness through passive detection.
Lockheed Martin’s miniaturized Legion-Embedded System (ES) infrared search and track (IRST) pod builds upon this capability. Legion ES repackages the longwave sensor developed for the Legion pod and IRST21. Lockheed miniaturized and consolidated electronics in the F-16’s forward equipment bay which created additional room to house the processor for Legion-ES. As a result, the 300 lb., 77-inch-long Legion-ES pod on the left underside of the forward fuselage is significantly lighter and smaller than Lockheed’s other podded IRST systems. In August 2021, an F-15C successfully cued an AIM-120 onto a target with the IRST2,1 demonstrating the added operational flexibility enabled by the pod in contested RF environments.
The Block 70/72 features a new Center Pedestal Display (CPD) measuring 6 x 8 in., new Raytheon supplied Modular Mission Computer (MMC) modules and an improved programable display generator. The MMC 7000 boasts twice the processing power and 40 times the memory of the legacy processor (484 times the processing power and 58 times the memory of the original F-16 processor). As with previous F-16 variants, the Block 70/72’s principal datalink is the Link 16 Multi-Function Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System Terminal (MIDS-JTRS).
The Block 70/72 does not feature an IR or UV missile approach warning system (MAWS) embedded within the airframe. However, operators can select from a variety of aftermarket systems such as Elbit’s Passive Airborne Warning System (PAWS).
The Block 70 is powered by the GE F110-129 which produces 29,900 lbf. of thrust at full afterburner and 17,084 lbf. at military power. The Block 72 is powered by the P&W F100-229 which produces a maximum of 29,160 lbf. of thrust in afterburner or 16,699 lbf. at full military power. The engines are not interchangeable between types as the Block 70 has a larger “big mouth inlet” due to its higher airflow requirements required for the F110-229. The GE engine has a slightly lower rotor inlet temperature of 2,484°F (1,362°C) and thrust to weight ratio of 7.41 relative to the P&W engine’s 2,730°F (1,499°C) and T/W ratio of 8.53.
The Block 70/72 can accommodate 15,000 lbs. of external stores on 11 stations (3 fuselage – 2 sensors only, 6 wing, 2 wingtip). Because of the aircraft’s long service life and widespread customer base, the Viper has been certified with more than 100 store types. For air-to-air missions, the F-16 is typically fitted with six AMMs (such as two AIM-9X and four AIM-120C-7/C-8), external fuel tanks.
Credit: Lockheed Martin
The F-16 family comprises over 140 distinct configurations and variants owing to its long production run and versatile airframe. Most configurations can be classified within a three-tiered system. The first tier is the standard tri-service designation series progression of models A, B, C, etc. The second tier is Block series which further denotes changes in production configurations over time within a tri-service variant such as F-16C Block 30 vs. F-16C Block 50. At more granular level exists Operational Flight Program (OFP) M-series mission tape standards which can involve both hardware and software modifications: M1, M2, M3, M4, M4.1, M4.2, M4.3, M5, M5.1, M5.2, M6, M6.1, M6.2, M6.5, M7, M7.1, M7.2, M8.03, M8.1 and M8.2 (see U.S. F-16 upgrades for additional details). For example, an F-16CM Block 50 M7.2+ designated aircraft denotes an airframe built as a F-16C Block 50 which underwent the CCIP upgrade and has now been further updated to the OFP M7.2+ configuration. The major variants are described below, for minor country specific configurations refer to the production & delivery history section of the profile.
F-16A/B Block 1
The original F-16A/B Block 1 variant which reached initial operational capability (IOC) in 1979 was developed as a low-cost, lightweight day fighter to complement the F-15. The aircraft was manufactured by the U.S. and a consortium of NATO partners - Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway - who became known as the European Participating Air Forces (EPAF). The design made the F-16 one of the most capable dogfighters of its generation, boasting a high thrust-to-weight ratio, low wing loading, rapid acceleration, small size, a tight turn radius and a seat tilted back 30 deg. for better g-tolerance. The design included minimal electronics. Its APG-66 radar had a limited beyond visual range (BVR) combat capability and it could carry only infrared (IR) guided AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (AAMs).
F-16A/B Block 5, 10, 15
The main alteration incorporated in the F-16A/B Block 5 was the change of the aircraft's radome color from black to grey to reduce visual signature. It also incorporated minor improvements in reliability and mission readiness which continued with Block 10. A Multinational Staged Improvement Program (MSIP) I began with Block 15, which reached IOC in November 1981 and introduced some enhancements (already present in the C/D variant) to improve BVR and air-to-ground combat capabilities. The APG-66 received an early track-while-scan mode. Internal provision was made for AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles. Have Quick I secure UHF radios were installed. Two hardpoints were also added on the chin of the engine inlet. To offset the change in center of gravity caused by the new hardpoints and stores, tail area was increased by 30%, which also increased stability. The airframe was also strengthened to increase max external stores by 1,000 lb.
F-16A/B Block 15 OCU and ADF
Block 15 OCU (for Operational Capability Upgrade) aircraft entered service in late 1987. The engine was replaced with a F100-PW-220 turbofan with better reliability. The block also included the wide-angle head-up display (HUD) and strengthened airframe already in use on C/D variants. Additional weapons were integrated, including the AGM-65 Maverick anti-tank missile, Penguin Mk. 3 anti-ship missile as well as provision for the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). In addition, these aircraft received ALE-40 chaff dispensers, an APX-101 identification friend or foe (IFF) transponder, an improved computer and provision for the ALQ-131 electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod.
The F-16 Block 15 Air Defense Fighter (ADF) is a conversion that was applied to U.S. Air National Guard (ANG) aircraft which enhanced air combat abilities so they could better intercept Russian bombers flying over the Artic Circle towards North America. The version's externally distinguishable features include four blade antennas in front of the canopy, a 150,000-candlepower searchlight below and front of the nose on the port side and, in A-models, long and thin horizontal bulges at the base of the tail. Internal modifications included ARC-200HF/SSB radios with the Have Quick II Secure Speech Module; APX-109 advanced IFF (AIFF) system; APG-66A radar with look down/shoot down capability, better detection of small targets and continuous wave illumination for guiding AIM-7s; compatibility with AIM-120; and capacity for 6 beyond visual range AAMs (BVRAAMs).
F-16AM/BM Mid-life Update (MLU)
The Mid-Life Update (MLU) program is an extensive modernization effort which was conceived to bring early European F-16s to a standard comparable with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Block 50 aircraft. The extensive upgrade was deemed necessary once it became clear the F-16 would not be replaced by a follow-on aircraft at the end of the 20th century as originally planned.
The MLU package begins with a complete structural assessment of the fighter and repair of any deficiencies in the airframe. Reassembled aircraft then receive a vastly improved modular mission computer to manage stores, fire control and HUD graphics. MLU kits have since evolved but initially began with the APG-66(V)2 radar with 25% better range, a track-while-scan mode that can handle up to ten targets and six AIM-120 engagements, an improved Doppler beam sharpening mode, better ground mapping, a medium-resolution Doppler navigation system and better electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM). Also added is an APX-111 AIFF system, wide-angle HUD, two 4x4-in. color multifunction displays (MFDs), improved display generators, a new data recorder, better controls, an improved data modem with provision for Link 16, an electronic warfare (EW) management system, a GPS receiver, a digital terrain system and provision for reconnaissance pods. Under the tri-service designation system, MLU aircraft receive an additional M suffix. For example, a modified F-16A becomes F-16AM. Sub configurations exist within the MLU series as documented by the M-series of mission tapes.
F-16A/B Block 20
The Block 20 is specific to Taiwan. The George H.W. Bush Administration agreed to supply Taiwan with F-16s and hoped selling A/B models would provoke less concern in Beijing than selling F-16C/D Block 50/52s. However, the F-16A/B Block 20s are in most respects built to the same standard as the Block 50/52 and F-16AM/BM (MLU) configuration. Structurally, the Block 20 features an amalgamation of components including the tail of a Block 50, wings of a Block 40 and landing gear of the A/B, limiting its maximum take-off weight to 37,500 lbs. The Block 20 is powered by the P&W F100-220E and features an APG-66(V)3 radar. Deliveries for this version began in 1997.
F-16C/D Block 25
In November of 1984, the F-16C/D Block 25 variant entered service with an APG-68 radar, compatibility with the Maverick missile and improvements to the controls, HUD and cockpit screens. These enhancements expanded the aircraft's mission profile to include precision strike, night attack and BVR interception.
F-16C/D Block 30/32
With deliveries beginning in 1987, Block 30/32 aircraft were the first to offer a choice of engine ("0" indicating GE, "2" Pratt and Whitney). They also included compatibility with the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and doubled the capacity of chaff/flare dispensers.
F-16C/D Block 40/42
The USAF originally procured the Block 40/42 expressly for air-to-surface strike operations. Block 40/42 deliveries began in December 1988 and introduced an APG-68(V)5 radar and compatibility with Paveway II/III laser-guided bombs (LGBs). Most importantly, these variants also introduced provision for the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system, which comprises two pods: an AAQ-13 navigation pod with a terrain-following radar and a fixed IR sensor; and an AAQ-14 targeting pod with a forward looking infrared system (FLIR), laser designator/rangefinder and missile boresight correlator. Both pods are integrated with a wide-angle HUD. These changes permitted the aircraft to conduct precision attack at night and in all weather conditions and also increased ordinance capacity. Prior to CCIP, USAF Block 40/42s were sometimes referred to as F-16CG/DG.
F-16C/D Block 50/52
The F-16C/D Block 50/52 entered service in 1992 with 29,000 lbf. class engine offerings (the F110-GE-129 orF100-PW-229), APG-68(V)5 radar with longer range and better reliability, an ALR-56M RWR, ALE-47 countermeasure dispenser system, Honeywell H-423 ring laser gyro inertial navigation system, GPS receiver, MD-1295A improved data modem, APX-101 IFF system and color cockpit displays. Owing to its long production run (over 800 aircraft from 1991-2017), the Block 50/52 features significant changes in its installed mission equipment between production batches. For example, aircraft produced after July 2000 feature an onboard oxygen generating system and more advanced versions of the APG-68 were incrementally introduced. The Block 50/52+ is a subtype introduced in 2002 and is detailed below.
F16ES (Enhanced Strategic)
The F-16ES was a development of the Block 50/52 proposed to compete against Boeing’s F-15E for an Israeli strike fighter requirement in 1994. Lockheed modified a Block 30 test aircraft to demonstrate the concept with conformal fuel tanks and two separate internal FLIR mounts on the top and bottom of the nose. Lockheed claimed the aircraft had a combat radius of 1,025 miles when carrying two 2,000 lbs. bombs, four AAMs, one 320-gallon centerline tank, two 600-gallon underwing tanks and the CFTs. While Israel selected the F-15I, the technologies developed for the ES would be instrumental in the subsequent F-16C/D Advanced Block 50/52+, F-16I and F-16E/F Block 60.
Advanced Block 50/52+
Later Block 50/52 aircraft are sometimes referred to as Advanced Block 50/52 or 50+/52+ and feature a host of country specific modifications. The Block 50/52+ can often be distinguished visually from preceding variants by its Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) mounted on top of the wings along the upper fuselage. The CFTs cumulatively hold more than 3,000 lbs. of JP-8 fuel internally, freeing up additional stores stations for munitions and significantly reducing drag. The CFTs are 24 ft. long and weigh 900 lbs. when empty and cannot be used by earlier Viper models as they require a new internal fuel feed system.
D model Advanced Block 50/52+s incorporates a dorsal spine connecting the rear canopy to the base of the vertical tail. The fairing adds 30 cubic ft. of additional space for avionics and electronic warfare equipment which is understood to be country specific. The dorsal spine for Israeli and Singaporean aircraft is believed to house the Elisra Self Protection System-3000 (SPS-3000) as well as Wild Weasel equipment to employ the AGM-88 anti-radiation missile without the external ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System pod.
Additional improvements to the Advanced Block 50/52 include the APG-68(V)9 radar, which can detect a 0 dBsm target (1.0 m^2) at 38 nm or 70.4 km – a 30% increase in detection range over the (V)8. The radar’s signal processor boasts a tenfold improvement in memory capacity and fivefold improvement in processing power. The APG-68(V)9 is capable of 2 ft. (0.6 m) resolution imagery in its synthetic aperture radar mode.
Production of the Block 52+ began in 2003 and ended in 2017 with orders from Greece, Israel, Singapore, Poland, Morocco and Iraq. Oman, Chile and Turkey ordered the Block 50+.
F-16E/F Block 60 “Desert Falcon”
The core features of the thoroughly modernized Desert Falcon. The dorsal spine on the F variant houses a secondary environmental control system, chaff and flares dispensers, Thales data link, and IEWS components.
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin
The F-16E/F Block 60 is a unique variant of the Viper that is in service only with the UAE, whose government funded its $3 billion development. The Desert Falcon features a thoroughly modernized avionics suite with 5th generation features, including:
- The Northrop Grumman APG-80 AESA radar, a 10-kW class array featuring 1,020 Transmit Receiver Modules (TRMs)
- The Northrop Grumman Falcon Edge Integrated Electronic Warfare Suite (IEWS), an electronic support measures (ESM) system developed by the company’s Rolling Meadows division. IEWS is arguably the most advanced system on the Block 60 and comprises both the LR-105 passive receiver and an active jammer. The LR-105 radar warning receiver (RWR) features short and long baseline interferometer antennas to provide passive geolocation capability against both airborne and ground emitters. The IDEW’s active jammer features an adaptive cross polarization capability – enabling IDEWs to gauge the polarization of a threat signal and retransmit it with an orthogonal/cross polarization to defeat coherent monopulse Doppler radars. IEWS is capable of automatically jamming and releasing expendables from its eight countermeasures dispensers. The Block 60 can also be fitted with the Raytheon ALE-50 towed fiber-optic decoy.
- The AAQ-32 Internal FLIR Targeting System (IFTS), a mid-wave IR Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) targeting system based upon the AAQ-28 Litening pod. The system provides laser ranging and target designation, AGM-65 Maverick guidance compatibility, long-range target detection, identification and track capability and can act as a pilotage sight in degraded environmental conditions or at night.
- An advanced cockpit with three 5 x 7” color displays and a wide-angle HUD,
The Block 60 features an entirely new liquid cooling system which was required to operate the type’s considerably more powerful avionics. Supplemental air cooling is provided by an improved environmental control system which was developed for the F-16I. The Block 60 features a new mission computer which boasts a 40 X improvement in processing speed (12.5 million operations per second) and memory as well as a new fiber-optic architecture which provides a thousand times the bandwidth of a MIL-1553B databus.
The addition of so many internal systems as well as the CFTs raise the Block 60s empty weight by 21% from 18,917 lbs. on the F-16C Block 50 to 22,900 lbs. In a fully loaded configuration, the Block 60 has an MTOW of 50,000 lbs. GE developed the most powerful variant of its F110 family to maintain the Block 60’s maneuvering and handling qualities. The GE F110-132 features a three-stage long chord blisk fan (combines compressor blades and disks), radial augmentor and improved power management capabilities. GE states the engine’s static thrust is in the 32,500 lbs.-class in afterburner and 19,000 lbs. at military power.
In January 2014, the U.S. government announced the potential sale of equipment to support a deal between Abu Dhabi and Lockheed for another 30 F-16s of a Block 61 standard. Lockheed confirmed the new version would incorporate unspecified stand-off weapons. Analysts believe those weapons to be the AGM-84E Stand-off Land-attack Missile - Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and AGM-154 Joint Stand-off Weapon (JSOW). However, the UAE ultimately opted not to expand its Desert Falcon fleet.
The F-16I Sufa, meaning “Storm” in Hebrew, is a further development of the F-16D Block 52+ with Israeli specific mission systems. The variant was conceived to provide the IAF with long-range air to surface strike capability at an affordable cost relative to the heavier F-15I. The Sufa’s landing gear have been significantly strengthened, granting it the highest MTOW of any F-16 at 52,000 lbs. The incorporation of additional Israeli avionics correspondingly raises its empty weight to approximately 21,000 lbs. (without CFTs). Israeli specific equipment has been provided by the following firms:
- Elbit – stores management system, IGAC mission computer, head up display, Dash IV Helmet Mounted Display (HMD), Israel Color Display Processor
- Rafael – ARC-210 UHF/VHF radio, ARC-164 UHF radio
- Elta – SATCOM
- Elistra – SPS-3000 EW suite
- Israel Military Industries – pylons and external tanks
- Astronautics – Multi-Function Display (two 4 x 4” displays), air data computer
- IAI – CFTs and OBOGS
Major on-Israeli equipment includes the Northrop Grumman APG-68(V)9 radar, Terma EW displays, BAE AIFF and Rokar countermeasure dispenser system. The Sufa also features an improved ECS to provide supplemental cooling air for its mission systems.
F-16CJ “Wild Weasel”
USAF Block 50/52s were primarily tasked with the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) mission to enable the aircraft to take over the role of the F-4G “Wild Weasel.” The first F-16CJ/DJ was delivered on May 7, 1993. The aircraft integrates the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and carries the Raytheon (formerly Texas Instruments) ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System (HTS) on the starboard intake hardpoint, permitting fully autonomous employment of the weapon. Wild Weasels often carry either the Northrop Grumman ALQ-131 or Raytheon ALQ-184 self-protection jammer pods.
In 2007, USAF fielded an upgrade to the ASQ-213 pods called HTS Revision 7 (HTS R7), which added a precision geo-location capability that allows the F-16 to target PGMs against air defense elements based on radar emissions detected by the HTS. The data derived from HTS R7 can also be transmitted to other aircraft via Link-16.
F-16CM/DM Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP)
Prior to this point, the USAF Block 40/42 fleet specialized in employing precision guided munitions while the Block 50/52 fleet executed SEAD missions. Furthermore, maintenance technicians had to be recertified to maintain each separate fleet of airframes. The Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP), initiated in 1997, sought to bring all USAF Block 40/42 and 50/52 aircraft to a common standard that included Link 16 Low Volume Terminal (LVT) datalink, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JMHCS), modular mission computer and color MFDs. Lockheed delivered the first CCIP upgraded F-16 (a Block 52 #92880) in 2002. The upgrade covered 651 airframes (254 F-16C/D Block 50/52s and 397 Block 40/42) from 2002-2010 at a cost of more than $2 billion. USAF aircraft undergoing the CCIP simultaneously received the FALCON STAR upgrade to ensure a service life of 8,000 hrs.
F-16C/D Block 40, 42, 50 and 52 aircraft that underwent the CCIP modification received an additional suffix letter (M) on technical orders. For example, F-16CJ/CGs became F-16CMs and F-16DJ/DGs became F-16DMs. However, this nomenclature is typically only found in select USAF technical documents. While CCIP in theory brought common capabilities to the Block 40/42/50/52 fleet, USAF pilot training for the nine squadrons of Block 50/52 emphasizes SEAD more than training for the Block 40/42 aircrews. Some of these Block 50/52 aircraft have been upgraded with the latest HAVE GLASS V RAM coatings.
F-16C+/D+ Combat Upgrade Plan Integration (CUPID)
The ANG launched the Combat Upgrade Plan Integration (CUPID) in 1998 to bring its Block 25/30/32s F-16s to a similar modernized and standardized configuration as the active component CCIP upgrade. Modified aircraft are occasionally referred to as F-16C+ /F-16D+. Enhancements included the Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL), night vision capability, JDAM integration, the AX-113 AIFF antennas and sniper targeting pod. Pre-block ANG F-16s utilize the Thales Scorpion HMD instead of JHMCS. The ANG also added ALQ-213 compatibility to its Block 30/32s.
Lockheed’s F-16V program offers existing F-16 operators a variety of avionics enhancements to take legacy F-16s up to 4.5 generation standards. The F-16V upgrade is modular in nature but is comprised four main elements: the Northrop Grumman APG-83 SABR, the new Modular Mission Computer, Center Pedestal Display and Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). Unlike the Block 70/72 upgrade, the V upgrade does not automatically include an improved internal ECM system such as the L3Harris ALQ-254 Viper Shield.
F-21 (Proposed Indian Configuration)
The F-21 is Lockheed’s F-16 derivative offering to India. Lockheed made the designation change in February 2019 at Aero India. The F-21 configuration features a CFT mounted drogue aerial refueling receptacle developed by ADP (Skunk Works), new pylon capable of carrying three air-to-air missiles, 12,000 hrs. airframe life and dorsal spine (for both single-seat and twin-seat aircraft) for avionics growth. The F-21 includes all the enhancements developed for the F-16V including APG-83 SABR, modernized cockpit and auto-GCAS. The designation change is a marketing strategy on behalf of Lockheed to differentiate its India offering from that of the country’s principal rival, Pakistan’s F-16. For additional details regarding Lockheed’s bid, refer to the end of the profile’s production and delivery history section.
Analysis: F-16 Block 70/72 Market Prospects
The F-16 Block 70 occupies a robust yet ultimately confined niche in the global fighter market as its greatest virtues both promote and undercut its appeal depending upon the operator. The F-16 is a known quantity with a mature, global system of training and support infrastructure that is immediately accessible to new operators. Thus, the Block 70/72 is marketed as a low risk, affordable fighter which can be easily inducted into air forces that are either standing up a fighter capability for the first time or are transitioning from Eastern fighter types to Western ones. The F-16 Block 70/72 is especially attractive to operators whose force structure can only support one fighter type given its multirole capabilities and diverse payload/armament options. Legacy Viper operators seeking to expand their fighter fleets without incurring new infrastructure and support costs such as Morocco and Taiwan have shown demand for the Block 70/72. Despite its old airframe, the Block 70/72’s mission systems have been thoroughly modernized to the point at which it is competitive with newer 4.5 generation fighter designs. The U.S. Air Force is expected to operate its F-16 fleet until at least 2040 ensuring the family will continue to receive lifecycle support.
While the F-16s versatility and mature user base are its greatest selling points, the aircraft is outclassed by its peers in high-end mission sets such as air dominance and destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD). Lockheed Martin is keenly aware that the Block 70/72 and F-35 represent opposite ends of the fighter market and thus do not compete with one another directly. However, the F-35 is only an option for well financed, NATO and major non-NATO ally air arms with clear paths through U.S. technology export controls. The F-35’s market for the time being is largely relegated to Western Europe, Northern Europe and the Asia-Pacific. Demand within Eastern European and Gulf demand for the type is expected to grow later in the decade. In contrast, demand for the Block 70/72 is most pronounced in Latin America, North Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. It is within these markets that the F-16 Block 70 regularly competes against its more modern 4.5 generation peers. The Boeing F-15EX, F/A-18E/F + EA-18G and Eurofighter Typhoon occasionally compete with the Block 70 but largely represent separate market niche for heavier, more expensive twin-engine fighters. The Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale most frequently complete against the Block 70/72 on the basis of cost, performance and other customer requirements.
Production & Delivery History
The F-16 is currently the most widely used fighter in the world. At the time of this writing, 4,598 F-16s have been produced in more than 140 versions. A total of 29 countries have operated or have placed orders for the type. Five nations - the U.S., Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey and South Korea - have manufactured the fighter:
- From 1973 to September 2017, 3,640 F-16s were produced at the main USAF Plant 4 facility in Fort Worth. Lockheed acquired General Dynamics’ aircraft division in 1993 and subsequently became the prime contractor for the program. Peak production reached 286 airframes in 1987 at 30 airframes per month.
- Belgium’s SABCA produced 222 F-16s for both Belgium and Denmark.
- Fokker in the Netherlands produced 300 F-16s covering orders from the Netherlands and Norway.
- Starting in 1988, Turkish Aircraft Industries produced 277 F-16s for both Turkey and Egypt.
- South Korea produced 128 F-16s from 1995 to 2004.
Lockheed Martin is in the process of transitioning the F-16 production line to Greenville, South Carolina. On Jan. 31, 2022, the Greenville plant completed the first depot sustainment for a USAF F-16. The first Block 70 is expected to roll off the assembly line and take flight by the end of 2022, followed by flight testing in 2023 and a transfer to Bahrain by 2024. The company currently has a backlog of 128 Block 70/72 aircraft worth $14 billion, ensuring production will continue until at least 2028. As of early 2022, the global order book and requirement outlook for the Block 70/72 is as follows:
Greg Ulmer, Executive Vice President of Lockheed’s Aeronautics division, told Aviation Week in November 2021 that the Block 70/72 line is several months behind schedule due to COVID-19 and issues related to a subassembly supplier.
USAF F-16 distribution as of early 2022. Of the 931 aircraft in service, GE engines power 68% of the fleet at 635 aircraft relative to P&W’s share of 296.
Credit: Aviation Week Intelligence Network
In total, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) has ordered 2,230 F-16s, 1,900 single-seaters and 330 two-seaters, representing nearly 50% of all new build deliveries. From 1978 to 1985, USAF received 785 F-16A/Bs, ranging from Block 1 to Block 15. From July 1984 to 2004, USAF received 1,444 F-16C/Ds of Blocks 25, 30, 32, 40, 42, 50 and 52. The last F-16A/B was withdrawn from the USAF inventory in 2008. As of early 2022, 931 F-16s remain in the Air Force inventory including 322 “pre-block” Block 25/30/32 airframes and 609 “post-block” Block 40/42/50/52. The distinction stems from the Common Configuration Improvement Program (CCIP) which brought all 40/42/50/52 aircraft to an identical configuration. The Air National Guard (ANG) component includes some 332 F-16C/D Block 25/30/32/40/42/50 airframes of which approximately 56% are pre-Block models. The USAF’s pre-Block examples will be progressively retired throughout the 2020s while the post-Block aircraft will receive upgrades to remain operational into the 2030s. 64% of this fleet is powered by GE F110-family engines.
In December 2021, the Fiscal 2022 NDAA authorized the retirement of 47 F-16C/Ds.
the USAF is undertaking four main enhancements to its post-block fleet: (1) the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), (2) integration of the APG-83 AESA, (3) incorporation of the Digital RWR and (4) the Operational Flight Program series of upgrades. The combination of these efforts will preserve the remaining CCIP modified airframes until 2040 and effectively bring them to 4.5 generation standards similar to the F-16V and Block 70/72.
Image Credit: USAF
The USAF’s F-16 SLEP program seeks to extend the service life of the post-block fleet from 8,000 to 12,000 hrs. of service life (approximately 15 years). Though funding for only 300 conversions have been budgeted as of the Fiscal 2021 request (Fiscal 2022 did not include a Future Years Defense Program or FYDP projection). The nine-month process costs $2.4 million per airframe and involves holistic strengthening or replacement of all major airframe components covering the wings, bulkheads, longerons, canopy, etc. The work is undertaken by the 573rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron based at Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB, Utah. The first four modified airframes were delivered in 2018 and the last airframe will be delivered in Fiscal 2026.
In March 2015, a Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) was issued for improved air to air detection and tracking capabilities for the homeland defense mission. An initial acquisition of 72 APG-83’s for Air National Guard (ANG) F-16s was funded in Fiscal 2017 and Fiscal 2018. To field the capability more rapidly, the service initially sought to minimize the upgrade of all non-AESA related components and software. Thus, Phase I of the AESA refit process had minimal changes to the OFP software but did include the purchase new hardware for later integration during Phase III This includes new center display units, high-speed data network components and remote interface panels. Aircraft at Andrews AFB were the first aircraft to receive the upgrade in January 2020. The subsequent Phase III effort will equip 505 active component and ANG aircraft with SABR beginning in Q1 of Fiscal 2022. In 2021, the ANG stated that 230 of its 332 aircraft still require funding for the APG-83. The previous FYDP associated with Fiscal 2021 projected a total program cost of $1.6 billion for 330 radars (increased to 505 as of Fiscal 2022). The AESA and associated hardware costs were approximately $2.4 million per airframe but the total conversion cost (including labor and spares) was $4.15 million.
The second major avionics improvement program will replace legacy analog ALR-69 and ALR-56M with the Next Generation Electronic Warfare (NGEW) Digital Radar Warning Receiver (DRWR). In January 2021, the Air Force announced it had awarded Northrop Grumman (NG) $250 million to develop the system after a competitive evaluation against L3Harris. NG expects the program could result in the acquisition of 450 NGEWs worth $2.5 billion. As of the time of this writing, the system has yet to receive a tri-service designation and is referred to as the DRWR in budget justification documents. The NGEW is understood to build upon NG’s latest APR-39 installed on the MC-130J and may feature more advanced electronic support measures (ESM) functions. Northrop says the NGEW will be fully integrated with SABR and “leverages an open-systems, ultra-wideband architecture, providing the instantaneous bandwidth to defeat modern threats”. The company’s test aircraft fitted with both SABR and NGEW took part in the 2021 Northern Lightning exercise at Volk Field, WI, in September. The first F-16 fitted with NGEW is expected to fly over the summer of 2022. Separately, the U.S. ANG and reserve aircraft will be fitted with the Elbit PAWS.
In April 2020, the Air Force released its F-16 Operational Flight Program (OFP) M7.2+ configuration to its more than 600 block 40/42/50/52 aircraft. The $455 million enhancement adds AIM-120D and AGM-158B JASSM-ER compatibility, facilitates integration of the APG-83 AESA, adds an Integrated Communication Suite as well as 42 other enhancements. The Air Force aims to release new OFP updates into two-year cycles. OFP M8.0.3 rectifies Modular Mission Computer shortfalls in memory and throughput. OFP M8.1 includes a programable display generator and M8.2 adds an ethernet high speed data network to facilitate future upgrades such as a digital targeting video pod. M8.1 installs will conclude in 2024 and M8.2 in 2026.
The USAF’s Fiscal 2022budget requests $613 million in procurement for F-16 modifications as well as $224 million in research development test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds.
One of the less-discussed aspects of the F-16's evolution is its incorporation of some radar cross section (RCS) reduction techniques under the HAVE GLASS program. In the late 1980s, U.S. and Soviet designers explored the application of RAM to fourth generation fighters such as MiG-29M (izdeliye 9.15) in 1986 and F/A-18A/B/C/D in 1989. The aim of these modifications is not to achieve full stealth capability but to modestly delay detection and potentiate self-protection jamming. This is due to the nature of the radar range equation. To achieve a 90% reduction in detection range from a threat radar, one must reduce the RCS of the target by a factor of 10,000. Conventional wisdom holds that tactically significant RCS reductions require careful shape management from inception and cannot be retrofitted – LO is 90% a function of shaping and 10% of materials.
HAVE GLASS I included a canopy coated with indium-tin-oxide (ITO) and a specially treated radar bulkhead. Canopies and radar bulkheads can be significant contributor of RCS as oncoming radar waves can penetrate and bounce around within the enclosed space, accumulating energy (freak waves). Modified aircraft can be visually identified by the gold coloration of their canopies. Dutch aircraft began receiving the modification under the Pacer Bond program in 1986. HAVE GLASS’ effectiveness was noted by the French during the 1987 Paris Air Show and contributed toward a desire to strengthen the Rafale’s signature reduction measures.
HAVE GLASS II started in the late 1990s and consisted of the Pacer Mud (FMS-3049 RAM) and Pacer Gem I/II (FMS-2026 IR topcoat) programs. FMS-3049 was comprised of ferromagnetic particles within a high dielectric constant polymer base. The combination both slows down and absorbs radar energy. RAM was applied to approximately 60% of the aircraft’s surface in 10-12 mm thick layer, adding some 100 kg to the aircraft. The 10-12 mm thickness likely indicates FMS-3049 was optimized against the X-band frequency frequently which is typically used for engagement radars. Lockheed used its Computer Aided Spray Paint Expelling Robot (CASPER) system developed for the F-22 to apply RAM in the F-16’s inlet duct and other difficult to access spaces. Some 1,700 U.S. and international F-16s received HAVE GLASS II treatments.
HAVE GLASS V, for 5th generation, was first observed on an F-16CMs in 2012. Some pre-Block models started to receive the modification by December 2019. HAVE GLASS V modified airframes are distinguished by their single-tone dark gray livery.
The effectiveness of HAVE GLASS is difficult to assess with publicly available information. A clean configuration F-16A reportedly has an RCS of 5 m2 relative to the 10 m2 for the F-15. HAVE GLASS is believed to have brought the F-16’s RCS down to the 1-3 m2 range – a 40-80% decrease. Assuming the mid-point RCS value of 2 m2 and using data from Russian export catalogs, it is possible to deduce that the S-400’s 92N6E fire control radar would detect an F-16A at 264 km (142 nm) and a HAVE GLASS F-16CM at 210 km (113 nm) – a 20% decrease in detection range. This 20% value would also apply toward reducing the F-16CM’s burn-through range, the point at which a radar’s power overcomes that of the jamming signal. For benchmarking purposes, the F-35 is thought to have an RCS of 0.0013 m² and correspondingly would be detected by the N92N6E at a range of 34 km or 18 nm.
This provides a very rough estimation of the benefit of HAVE GLASS. Effectiveness is complicated by the configuration of external stores. Application of RAM, shaping techniques and intentional selection of station locations for the stores can all mitigate an increase in external signature to a degree. For example, General Dynamics discovered an F-16XL carrying stores conformally had noticeably lower RCS values than the baseline F-16. Certain munitions such as the AIM-9X employ RAM treatments while others such as the AARGM-ER and JASSM incorporate LO shaping into their designs. The F/A-18E/F uses pylons with RAM treatments applied to the upper front surface while other pylons such as the SSU-96 pylon and LAU-151 rail used on the F-35 for the AIM-9X incorporate specialized shaping. The HAVE SLICK cruise missile concept incorporated all three of these methods: it was LO shaped featured RAM and attached conformally to stealth aircraft such as the F-117.
Analysis: F-16 Within the Future USAF Fighter Force Structure
The Air Force originally planned to conduct a mirrored replacement for its F-16s and A-10s with 1,763 F-35As being inducted at a rate of 80 per year. The USAF’s thinking has since shifted. Since at least 2018, the Air Force has become increasingly concerned with the F-35A's high cost per flight hour (CPFH), cost per tail per year (CPTY) and modernization/retrofit costs associated with Block 4. For example, the F-35A’s CPFH was $43,123 in Fiscal 2019 compared to the F-16’s $22,746 (the F-35 CPFH has since fallen to approximately $38,000 in Fiscal 2021). In CPTPY terms, USAF F-35As cost $9.15 million relative its F-16C/D’s $4.03 million. As the replacement effort progresses, overall operations and sustainment costs escalate, and each year there are fewer dollars available for new aircraft procurement. This has given rise to increasingly vocal calls to curtail the 1,763-aircraft POR.
During 2018, the USAF recalibrated its assessment that only fifth generation fighters could participate in Day 1 actions against near-peer threats. The service’s internal think-tank, Air Force Warfighting Integrating Capability (AFWIC), generated a new fighter roadmap force structure aimed at great power war. The principal role for each F-35A was to launch two stealthy cruise missiles — Lockheed’s AGM-158 JASSM — from just inside defended airspace. That “kick-down-the-door” pairing would be combined with mass launches of multiple JASSM each from F-15Es and F-15EXs. Other missions — namely, defensive counter-air and homeland defense — could be performed by the F-35, but other aircraft, such as F-15EXs and F-16s, also could be used.
Driven by this new appreciation for a portfolio of fighter capabilities, the AFWIC team also reconsidered how many of each type would be needed. AFWIC’s fighter roadmap by the end of 2018 had capped F-35A deliveries at about 1,050 jets. If new aircraft orders are maintained at a rate of two to 2.5 squadrons a year — between 48 and 60 jets — for the foreseeable future, the Air Force is at least 10 years away from hitting the 1,050 cap in AFWIC’s fighter roadmap. This figure is consistent with earlier USAF pronouncements establishing a goal to build a 50-50 5th-4th generation fighter force by 2030.
When the Air Force established the program of record for buying 1,763 F-35As, the plan assumed replacing all pre-block F-16s. As a replacement decision enters the DoD’s five-year budgeting horizon, however, Air Force officials have become more flexible. In February 2020, the head of Air Combat Command (ACC), who was then Gen. Mike Holmes, said that low-cost, attritable aircraft would be considered for the pre-block F-16 replacement in the 2024-2027 timeframe. Discussions of a FT-7 (modified Boeing T-7A Red Hawk) or new build F-16 Block 70 were also reportedly discussed as options. In February 2021, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Brown announced the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (OSD CAPE) office would conduct a tactical combat aircraft (TACAIR) study for its future force structure. A "clean sheet" 4.5 generation aircraft would be evaluated as a potential option according to Gen. Brown. In May 2021 as part of its budget rollout, the Air Force revealed plans to replace the 600 post-block F-16s by the prospective multi-role fighter (MR-X) or the F-35 should its sustainment metrics improve.
ACC’s Gen. Kelly explained, “MR-X is basically an acknowledgment of we need affordable capacity… [the 600 F-16s are] going to be our affordable capacity for years to come. Eventually though, like anything that’s metal, you bend it enough times, you have to replace it, and that’s where the MR-X discussion and options start to come into play.” However, the Air Force will have no budgetary bandwidth to begin development of a clean sheet MR-X in the late 2020s or early 2030s as it must simultaneously fund NGAD, KC-Y (“bridge tanker”), F-35, B-21 full rate production and emerging unmanned system priorities. Air Force Sec. Frank Kendall is expected to review Gen. Brown’s fighter roadmap as part of the FY23 budget process. Despite Kendall’s review, the F-16’s versatility, low cost, high availability and 4.5 generation capabilities ensure the type will remain a core part of the USAF inventory into the 2040s.
In addition, from early 1987 to May 1988, 26 F-16s were delivered to the U.S. Navy (USN) for use as opponents in Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT). The aircraft were of Block 30 standard but featured modifications to make them more capable dogfighters including: a lighter but stronger airframe, use of the lighter APG-66, and removal of the M61 cannon along with all provisions for external stores. The 26 aircraft were made up of 22 single seaters called F-16Ns and 4 two-seaters called TF-16Ns. In 1994, USN announced the retirement of the fleet due to structural fatigue and the aircraft were transferred to the Boneyard at Davis Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona.
USN Aggressor units later replaced these aircraft with 14 Block 15 aircraft - 10 As and four Bs - out of 28 which were produced for Pakistan prior to an embargo the U.S. imposed on the country in the early 90s. After storage at Davis Monthan AFB for several years, the aircraft were upgraded with Block 30 standard wings and possibly other structural improvements and transferred to USN aggressor units where they are now sustained by the Navy's PMA-226 office.
As of early 2022, all 14 aircraft remain in operation. In May 2021, the Navy Reserve proposed retiring its legacy F/A-18s early and replacing them with secondhand U.S. ANG F-16s.
F-16C/D Block 40
The Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF) has received a total of 22 F-16C/D Block 40 fighters - 18 Cs and 4 Ds. In March 1987, Bahrain signed a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) to purchase 12 F-16C/D Block 40s - 8 Cs and 4 Ds - under the Peace Crown I Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The deal made Bahrain the 15th F-16 customer and the first in the Persian Gulf region. The first delivery occurred on March 22, 1989. The first four aircraft arrived in Bahrain on May 23, 1990. Deliveries were completed that year.
In February 1998, Bahrain signed a second LOA covering the purchase of another 10 F-16C Block 40 aircraft for $303 million under a Peace Crown II program. These aircraft were delivered in 2000. The RBAF has also upgraded the radars on its aircraft to the APG-68(V)9 standard. Weapons for Bahrain's LANTIRN-equipped F-16s include the AIM-7, AIM-120B, GBU-12 500-lb. and GBU-10 2,000-lb. Paveway II LGBs and AGM-65B/G (TV/IR-guided) Mavericks.
The RBAF has lost a total of two F-16Cs, one on Sep. 27, 2003 and another on Dec. 30, 2015 during operations over Yemen.
F-16 Block 70
In September 2017, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) issued two separate notifications regarding the potential sale of 19 new build Block 70s to Bahrain and the upgrade of 20 existing block 40 aircraft to the F-16V configuration for $2.875 billion and $1.082 billion respectively. On June 25, 2018, the RBAF became the launch customer for the Block 70 with the signing of a $1.12 billion contract for 16 aircraft. Bahraini Vice Marshal Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa told Aviation Week in November 2021 that he did not expect the aircraft to be operational until 2024. He also stated that discussions to upgrade the Block 40 fleet were ongoing and that the service was trying to secure a “better deal.” “The introduction of the new F-16 is the top priority,” he said.
The Belgian air force has procured a total of 160 F-16A/Bs - 134 single-seaters and 24 two-seaters - ranging from Block 1 to Block 15 OCU. Only 52 remain in service as of early 2022, all of which have received the MLU upgrade. The remainder have been sold or withdrawn from service. The Belgian Air Component expects to fully replace its Viper fleet with 34 F-35As over the decade.
Belgium is also one of the five nations to produce the fighter in its own facilities, through Sociétés Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aéronautiques (SABCA), the firm which performed final assembly for Belgian and Danish aircraft.
Belgium was one of the first four international customers in the program, who were all looking to replace their nations' F-104 Starfighters. Its first order, placed as part of the initial EPAF procurement for 348 aircraft, covered 116 F-16A/Bs (96 As and 20 Bs) which were delivered at standards ranging from Block 1 to Block 15. These deliveries occurred from Jan. 26, 1979 to May 1985.
In February 1983, Brussels placed a second order for 44 F-16A/B Block 15 OCU aircraft (40 As and four Bs) which were delivered from 1987 to 1991.
During the late 1990s, part of Belgium's shrinking fleet underwent the MLU modernization program. All aircraft remaining in service are of an MLU standard. Some advanced avionics Brussels has purchased for its F-16 fleet include AAQ-14 LANTIRN targeting pods, Sniper targeting pods, ALQ-131 ECM pods, Link 16 and JMHCS.
The Bulgarian MoD released a RFI for eight new multirole fighters in February 2011 to replace its Soviet-era MiG-29 Fulcrum fleet. The tender was delayed due to budget constraints and changing political administrations. In December 2016, Bulgaria issued an RFP to Sweden, Italy, the U.S. and Portugal for JAS 39C/Ds, secondhand Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1s and F-16s respectively. Bulgaria’s interim government selected the Gripen in April 2017 with the goal of accepting the aircraft between 2018 and 2020. Bulgaria’s new government (inaugurated in April 2017) questioned the source selection process and chose to restart the competition. By 2018, Bulgaria’s MoD signaled it might purchase up to 16 aircraft, but the country’s parliament only approved eight aircraft. The new RFI was issued in July 2018 at which time the competitors included the F-16 Block 70/72, Rafale, Gripen C/D, F/A-18E/F and secondhand Eurofighters.
In December 2018 media reports indicated the country’s defense minister and chief economist favored the F-16 as the other options were deemed too expensive. In January 2019, Bulgaria’s parliament approved the start of negotiations with Lockheed Martin. In June 2019, the DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of eight F-16C/D Block 70/72 aircraft as well as associated equipment and support services worth $1.673 billion. That July, Bulgaria’s president Rumen Radev, who had previously served as a General in the Bulgarian Air Force, vetoed the deal citing a “lack of consensus.” He was shortly thereafter overruled by majority vote of 128 MPs (out of 240 in Parliament), mostly from the GERB Party.
In April 2020, Bulgaria signed an LOA worth $1.26 billion and Lockheed Martin was subsequently awarded a $512 million FMS production contract. The first pair of aircraft was expected to be delivered in November 2023 followed by four more airframes in April 2024. The final pair of aircraft would deliver in August 2024. As part of the deal, the USAF will transfer two retired F-16Ds to the Bulgarian air force for training purposes.
In October 2020, then Defense Minister Karakachanov announced plans to sell the country’s remaining 14 MiG-29s to finance a second batch of eight Block 70s. In August 2021, Bulgaria submitted a Letter of Request (LOR) for eight additional F-16 Block 70s. The Defense Minister Panayotov informed of the parliament the US government would likely take 6 to 8 months to review the LOR.
In January 2022, Bulgarian MoD reported to Parliament that COVID-19 was expected to delay Lockheed Martin’s F-16 delivery schedule by a few months.
The Chilean air force (Fuerza Aérea de Chile, FACh) has received a total of 46 F-16s, consisting of 10 Block 50s purchased new and 36 F-16A/B MLU aircraft bought used from the Netherlands.
On Feb. 2, 2002, Santiago signed an LOA for 10 new F-16C/D Block 50s - six Cs and four Ds. The fighters were delivered in 2006. In October 2005, Chile decided to purchase a follow-on batch of 18 Dutch F-16A/B MLU aircraft - 11 As and 7 Bs. Deliveries occurred between August 2006 and September 2007. On May 25, 2009, Amsterdam confirmed it would sell another 18 F-16A MLU aircraft to the FACh. The Netherlands delivered these aircraft in 2010 and 2011.
Chile's F-16s originally did not include AIM-120 compatibility. The State Department reportedly did not wish to introduce new capabilities in the region as part of its arms control policy. It is believed that Chile turned to Israel to supply Derby Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles instead. However, Peru’s introduction of MiG-29s with R-77s may have altered the calculus as the U.S. eventually delivered AIM-120s to Chile.
On July 23, 2020, the DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of $634.7 million worth of F-16 upgrades to Chile. The package included JHMCS, Link 16 (MIDS-JTRS), Mode 5 IFF and technical as well as logistical support services. The following day, the Undersecretary of National Defense of Chile reported the upgrade would be delayed due to COVID-19 related financial pressures. The Chilean MoD added that it began evaluating upgrade proposals for its F-16 fleet in 2012 with the aim of extending the service life of its fleet. Furthermore, the prices cited by DSCA were higher than MoD projections which examined partial payments over a period greater than nine years. The announced upgrade package was substantially less ambitious than previous reports suggested. The FACh originally requested as many as 36 additional secondhand aircraft and considered adding AESA and improved ECM capabilities.
The Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) has acquired a total of 77 F-16A/Bs in two major orders and later received attrition replacements. Of these, 46 remain in service, all of which have undergone MLU. The RDAF selected the F-35 in 2016 to fully replace its F-16s. A total of 27 F-35As will be delivered from 2021 to the mid-2020s.
Denmark was one of the original EPAF nations and its first order covered 58 Block 1 F-16s, 46 As and 12 Bs). Deliveries began on Jan. 28, 1980 and ended in 1983. These fighters were later upgraded to a Block 10 standard. In August 1984, Copenhagen ordered 12 more advanced Block 15 aircraft - eight As and four Bs - as attrition replacements. Deliveries occurred from 1987 to 1991.
In July 1994, three U.S. F-16 Block 15s from the U.S. Illinois ANG were transferred to the RDAF as attrition replacements. In early 1997, another four U.S. F-16s were delivered to Denmark as additional attrition replacements. Three of these were F-16A Block 15s from the U.S. Air Force Reserve and one was an F-16B Block 10 from the Arizona ANG.
Equipment specific to Danish F-16s includes a 450W search light installed on the port fuselage just beneath the canopy, the ALQ-10 Advanced Miniature Jamming System, RR-170 chaff dispensers, a Terma digital electronic warfare management system (EWMS), Red Baron reconnaissance pods and later Modular Reconnaissance Pods. MLU equipment includes Link 16, JMHCS and an advanced EWMS. In April 2021, Danish F-16s were observed sporting the latest HAVE GLASS V RAM treatments.
The Egyptian Air Force (EAF) has received a total of 240 F-16s - 186 single seaters and 54 two-seaters - ranging from Block 15 to Block 52. These aircraft were acquired through seven “Peace Vector” deals. The country has upgraded all its earlier aircraft to a Block 40/42 equivalent standard. As of the time of this writing, the F-16 is the most numerous fighter operated by the EAF with some 180 aircraft in service. However, the Viper’s future in Egypt is uncertain.
The service has long complained about the U.S.’s refusal to supply AIM-120s (reportedly due to pressure from Israel) forcing the EAF to use the older semi-active radar guided AIM-7. Egyptian sources note that Ethiopia’s 10 Su-27SK/UBK fleet is armed with R-77 BVR AAMs. The combination of deterioration of U.S.-Egypt defense relations following the Arab Spring and the refusal of the U.S. to supply AIM-120s has led Cairo to procure 50 Dassault Rafales and 46 MiG-29M/M2s. Cairo also ordered 24 Su-35S in 2018 for $2 billion but as of early 2022 appears to have relented due to U.S. pressure. Reports emerged in July 2021 that the Egyptians had also come to view the Su-35’s avionics as significantly inferior to those of the Rafale as a result of combat exercises.
On June 25, 1980, Cairo signed an LOA for 44 F-16A/B Block 15 fighters - 34 As and eight Bs - under the Peace Vector I program. First delivery occurred in January 1982, followed by arrival of the first aircraft in Egypt on March 16, 1982. Deliveries continued until 1985. In 1981, Cairo ordered another 40 F-16C/D Block 32 aircraft - 34 Cs and six Ds - under the Peace Vector II program. These aircraft were compatible with the AIM-7 Sparrow. First delivery occurred in October 1986. The last aircraft arrived in 1987. In June 1990, Cairo ordered 47 F-16C/D Block 40 aircraft - 35 Cs and 12 Ds - under the Peace Vector III program. The new fighters would equip two additional squadrons and serve as attrition replacements. Deliveries began in October 1991 and continued through 1995.
Also in the early 1990s, the EAF ordered another 46 F-16C/D Block 40 aircraft - 34Cs and 12 Ds - under the Peace Vector IV program, which would be manufactured by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). Deliveries ran from early 1994 through 1995.
In May 1996, Cairo signed an agreement for another 21 F-16C Block 40s under a $670 million deal called Peace Vector V to replace some of the country's older Soviet aircraft. Deliveries ran from 1999 to 2000. By 1997, all of Egypt's earlier Block 15 and 32 series F-16s had been upgraded to the Block 40/42 configuration excluding their engines. Through the improvements, all of Egypt's F-16s can carry LANTIRN and can employ the GBU-15, the AGM-65D, the AGM-84 Harpoon and the AGM-88 HARM.
On Mar. 6, 1999, Washington announced it would sell the EAF another 24 F-16C/D Block 40s - 12 Cs and 12 Ds - under a $1.2 billion deal called Peace Vector VI, which would be funded by Foreign Military Financing. Deliveries occurred in 2001 and 2002.
On Dec. 24, 2009, Cairo signed a deal with Washington to purchase 20 F-16C/D Advanced Block 52s – 16 Cs and four Ds – under the Peace Vector VII Program. Eight aircraft arrived before the Egyptian military overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. On July 24, a DoD spokesperson said the further deliveries would be delayed and in Oct. 2013, Washington officially suspended delivery of the remaining 12 aircraft. On March 31, 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama removed the arms ban, clearing the way for deliveries to resume. Eight more F-16s were delivered to Cairo West Air Base on July 30 and 31, 2015. The last four were delivered to the EAF in Cairo on Oct.29 of that year.
F-16C/D Block 30/40/50/52
In November 1984, Greece announced its intention to acquire 40 F-16C/Ds Block 30s - 34 Cs and six Ds - to replace the country's F-5A Freedom Fighters. The decision was likely in response to the announcement by Turkey, Greece's long-time rival, that it would acquire the type. The FMS agreement, named Peace Xenia I, was signed in January 1987. The first aircraft was delivered on Nov. 18, 1988 and the last aircraft was delivered in October 1989. These aircraft can be visually distinguished by their searchlight on the starboard side just below and forward of the canopy.
In April 1993, Greece ordered another 40 F-16CJ/CJ Block 50 aircraft - 32 Cs and eight Ds - from General Dynamics under Peace Xenia II. The first aircraft rolled out on Jan. 28, 1997, was delivered on May 22, 1997, and arrived in Greece in July of that year. The last aircraft was delivered in 1998.
In June 2000, the Greek Defense Ministry ordered 50 F-16C/D Block 52 fighters with an option for 10 more - 40 Cs and 20 Ds in total - under what became the Peace Xenia III program. In September 2001, Athens exercised the option. These 60 Block 52 aircraft would be equipped with CFTs. Deliveries started in 2002 and concluded on June 8, 2004.
On December 13, 2005, Athens signed an LOA for an additional 30 F-16C/D Block 52s - 20 Cs and 10 Ds - with an option for 10 more, under the Peace Xenia IV program. On Mar. 15, 2006, it announced it would not exercise the option. The 30 fighters were delivered in 2009 and 2010.
Beginning in September 1996, Hellenic Aerospace Industry conducted a mid-life "Falcon-Up" program on the HAF's Block 30 F-16s, returning the first aircraft on July 15, 1997. The upgrade included a SLEP, extending the service life of the fighters from 4,000 hours to 8,000. HAF also added night attack capability to its Block 30s, although by directly purchasing commercial systems instead of LANTIRN. However, later, HAF did purchase 24 LANTIRN navigation pods and 16 targeting pods for its Block 50s.
HAF F-16s also carry the Advanced Self-Protection Integrated Suite (ASPIS, an EW system), the ALQ-187 I-DIAS jamming system, ALR-66VH(I) RWR, ALE-47 chaff/flare dispensers, and the JMHCS. Armament on Greek F-16s includes the AIM-120B/C5, the IRIS-T, the AGM-88B, the JDAM, the JSOW, and the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD).
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin graphic of HAF F-16 fleet from 2018. Athens has since reduced the scale of its F-16V remanufacture effort and incurred two operational losses since that time.
The Hellenic Air Force (HAF) has acquired a total of 170 F-16s - 126 single-seaters and 44 two-seaters - ranging from Block 30 to Block 52. As of early 2022, the HAF operates 154 F-16s. In October 2017, the DSCA issued a notification for a potential upgrade of 123 HAF F-16s to the F-16V configuration worth $2.404 billion. In April 2018, Greece announced it would only upgrade the P&W portion of its Viper fleet (the remaining Peace Xenia III and IV Block 52s). Instead of upgrading the remaining airframes, the HAF has ordered 24 Rafales to replace its Mirage 2000-5 fleet worth more than €2.32 billion ($2.6 billion) and is pursuing the F-35. The GE F110portion of the fleet will remain in service with modest upgrades to the M6 capability as shown on the graphic above. As of early 2022, a total of 83 aircraft will be remanufactured and delivered through 2028.
On Jan. 17, 2021, the first Greek F-16V took flight. A total of four airframes will be converted by Lockheed Martin within the U.S. but Hellenic Aerospace Industries (HAI) will thereafter take over the remanufacture work locally. In October 2019, Lockheed’s VP of business development initiatives in Europe, Dennis Plessas, announced the LOA was worth $1.528 billion covering $530 million worth of U.S. government provided services and materials as well as $998 million in services from Lockheed Martin. He expects Greek industry will receive approximately $265 million worth of work throughout the upgrade program.
As of early 2022, Indonesia’s air force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara, TNI-AU) has 23 F-16IDs (18 single seat, 5 twin seat) as well as seven F-16A and two F-16Bs which are being upgraded to the enhanced MLU (EMLU) STAR configuration. The Viper constitutes approximately 2/3 of the TNI-AU’s total fighter force, alongside a small contingent of Flankers. The service evaluated the Block 72 in 2019 to fulfill its requirement for 36 additional fighters but now appears to favor heavier, twin-engine designs such as the Dassault Rafale and Boeing F-15EX.
In August 1986, Indonesia signed an LOA for 12 F-16A/B Block 15 OCUs - eight As and four Bs - under the Peace Bima-Sena FMS program. Deliveries began in December 1989 and concluded in 1990. These aircraft have been limited to daylight operations because of their lack of advanced weapons and targeting equipment. It is believed that the armament of those F-16s is limited to the AIM-9, unguided general-purpose bombs and the AGM-65.
Indonesia had planed to acquire up to 60 F-16s and its Air Force Chief of Staff ordered another nine in March 1996. However, Indonesian President Suharto canceled the order on June 2, 1997, due to American accusations of Indonesian human rights violations. That August, Indonesia opted to purchase Flankers instead.
In 1999, Washington banned the sale of military equipment and services to Indonesia because of violence on the breakaway island of East Timor. The embargo and consequent lack of spare parts for Indonesia's F-16s severely hurt the readiness of the fleet. However, the ban was lifted in November 2005.
In November 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed Indonesia would order 24 ex-USAF F-16C/D Block 25 aircraft - 19 Cs and five Ds - to replace the remainder of the country's F-5E/F fleet. These aircraft would be upgraded to a standard slightly below CCIP with a modern MMC-7000 mission computer and M5 software package. The deal also includes four Block 25 aircraft and two Block 15 aircraft to be used for spare parts.
On Nov. 17, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a potential contract for a $750 million "regeneration and upgrade" for the aircraft, including: 28 F-100-PW-200 or -200E engines (granted from U.S. stocks as excess defense articles), ALR-69 RWRs, ARC-164/186 radios, ALQ-213 EW management systems, ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser systems, situational awareness datalinks, LN-260 navigation systems (SPS version) and either AAQ-33 Sniper or AAQ-28 Litening targeting pods. These upgrades will bring the aircraft to a standard being called F-16C/D Block 52ID.
The first three aircraft from the order arrived in July 24, 2014 and by April 2015 total deliveries had reached five. However, on April 16, 2015, one of the F-16Cs caught fire just before take-off at Halim Perdana Kusuma Air Base near Jakarta, and TNI-AU grounded its fleet of F-16C/Ds until an investigation could determine the cause of the fire. Indonesian press reports erroneously indicated the aircraft resumed operations within a couple of months, but the damaged aircraft was subsequently written off. Deliveries briefly stalled after the ninth aircraft was delivered in May 2015, industry sources attribute the delay to a dispute over the cost of upgrade. Deliveries eventually resumed in September 2016 and continued through December 2017 upon receipt of the final 24th aircraft.
In August 2020, the TNI-AU unveiled the first of its aircraft to complete the Falcon STAR eMLU upgrade. The program effectively upgrades its F-16A/B fleet to a similar configuration as its F-16IDs with APG-68(V)9 radars, improved mission computers, service life extension to ensure 8,000 hrs. of operation (projected until 2040) and new payload options (such as AIM-120, AIM-9X and PGMs). TNI-AU and PT Dirgantara Indonesia technicians are performing the conversion work locally at under the supervision of Lockheed Martin at Iswahjudi Air Base, Madiun. As of August 2021, five aircraft had completed the conversion process. The pgrade is being carried out under a hybrid FMS and Direct Commercial Sales arrangement. The Indonesian Minister of National Development Planning stated the upgrade costs approximately $10-$12 million per aircraft.
In October 2019, the TNI-AU’s Chief of Staff – Marshall Yuyu Sulsina, outlined a proposal to procure two squadrons worth of Block 72 aircraft as part of the service’s 2020 to 2024 Strategic Plan. However, upon the collapse of the $1.14 billion acquisition of 11 Su-35s due to U.S. sanctions, the service pivoted toward exploring other options. The TNI-AU maintains a dual sourced fighter fleet to achieve a level of geo-political impendence from the U.S, seeking to avoid a repeat of the 1990s grounding of its F-16 fleet. The Rafale became the preferred non-U.S. option because it lacks components subject to U.S. export controls, features modern mission systems and can carry advanced munitions (such as Meteor, MICA NG, and SCALP). Russian competitors are subject to U.S. sanctions and generous financing for Rafale sales is provided by French banks.
Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto met with French Defense Minister Florence Parly in August 2020 to discuss the sale. Still seeking to maintain strong defense ties with Washington, Prabowo also met with then U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that month. Prabowo reportedly expressed interest in the F-35 but such a prospect would be unlikely to be approved in the short term. Instead, the DoD countered by offering the Block 70/72, F/A-18E/F and F-15EX.
In January 2021, Dassault’s CEO announced negotiations were temporarily on hold with Indonesia because of COVID-19. In February 2021, the TNI-AU’s 2021 to 2024 Plan was released. The proposal called for the purchase of 36 Rafales and 15 F-15EXs. Indonesia signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) for 36 Rafales in June 2021 worth €5.8 billion ($6.56 billion). Financing and details regarding the Rafale’s price and availability were expected to be concluded in early 2022. On December 22, 2021, TNI-AU Chief of Staff Marshall Fadjar Prasetyo confirmed the service still sought to acquire 36 Rafales and eight F-15EXs. The latter delivering around 2027. As of early 2022, the DSCA has yet to release a notification regarding a potential F-15EX sale to Indonesia.
In January 2022, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto reported negotiations with Dassault had concluded and the contract was “awaiting activation.” Indonesia has increasingly turned to foreign loans as a means to fund its defense modernization projects during COVID-19. The $8.1 billion contract for 42 aircraft was signed a month later in February 2022.
The Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) has purchased 36 F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft, 24 single-seaters and 12 two-seaters, in two batches. The country first expressed interest in the F-16 in 2008 as a means of rebuilding its fighter force following its conflicts with the U.S. In September 2010, the DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of 18 F-16 IQ (Block 52 equivalent) aircraft as well as associated equipment and support services worth $4.2 billion. This first order consisted of a dozen single-seat and six twin-seat aircraft and was delivered between 2014 and 2015. A follow-on batch of 18 additional aircraft was announced by the DSCA in December 2011 worth $2.3 billion. The second batch of 16 single seaters and two twin seaters was delivered between 2016 and 2017.
To support the standing up of its new fighter force, Baghdad also ordered 15 Textron T-6As and 24 KAI T-50IQ advanced jet trainers. In 2018, the IqAF inaugurated its training academy. IqAF F-16IQs stationed at Luke AFB for conversion training were subsequently transferred to Iraq in 2019. Iraq has complained about the low availability of its F-16 fleet in recent years. The Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) reported IqAF F-16s managed only four training sorties per day as of January 2021. The U.S. aims to improve the IqAF’s training sortie generation rate to eight per day through improved contractor logistics support. In May 2021, Lockheed Martin announced it was withdrawing its maintenance teams for acts F-16 fleet for security reasons. Tensions with Iran resulted in several rocket strikes against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq.
The Iraqi version of the Falcon is also known as the F-16IQ. Its avionics include: APG-68(V)9, Raytheon ALQ-187 ECM, Raytheon ALR-93 RWR, Lockheed AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pods and UTC Aerospace Systems DB-110 electro-optical reconnaissance pods. Weapons employed on Iraqi F-16s will include AIM-7M, AIM-9L/M, AGM-65 and Paveway II/III LGBs. The sales to Iraq do not include AIM-120, AIM-9X or JDAM.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is the second-largest customer for the Viper after the U.S. Air Force, having acquired a total of 362 F-16s – 172 single seaters and 190 two-seaters. That total includes 50 ex-USAF fighters which were transferred to Israel in gratitude for its stay out of the 1991 Gulf War. Israeli Falcon versions range from the F-16A/B Block 5 to a heavily modified F-16D Block 52 known as the F-16I. All Israeli F-16s also carry extensive locally produced electronics. As of early 2022, the IAF operates 207 F-16s. This force is composed of 33 F-16C Block 30s, 21 F-16D Block 30s, 29 F-16C Block 40s, 27 F-16D Block 40s and 97 F-16Is. The Viper remains the backbone of the Israeli fighter force and is complemented by a smaller fleet of 78 F-15s and growing fleet of F-35s.
In August 1978, Jerusalem announced plans to purchase 75 F-16A/Bs - of which 49 would be F-16A Block 10s, 18 would be F-16A Block 5s and eight would be F-16B Block 5s. However, the Block 5 aircraft were converted to Block 10 standard before the sale. These aircraft had been built for the Imperial Iranian Air Force, but the takeover of Iran by Islamic fundamentalists and the consequent severing of the U.S.-Iranian security cooperation relationship led the aircraft to be provided to Israel instead. This first deal for 75 aircraft was termed Peace Marble I.
The first of the fighters, painted in a desert camouflage scheme and known locally as Hawk (Netz), arrived in Israel in June 1980. While Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981, led the Reagan administration to halt deliveries of the last batch of 22 fighters, the embargo was lifted in August and the last aircraft still arrived in 1981. Prior to delivery, the aircraft received 17 IAF-requested modifications, such as installation of chaff/flare dispensers. The remainder of the adjustments were mostly to the computers and software and enabled the aircraft to carry Israeli weapons. In 1992, all Israeli F-16A/Bs were structurally reinforced and upgraded with Elbit mission systems, making them equivalent (besides their engines) to F-16C/D aircraft.
Israel retired the last of its F-16A/Bs in December 2016 and subsequently placed the aircraft in storage. Israel offered to sell Croatia a portion of this fleet in 2018 but the US government objected in early 2019. The aircraft will now be transferred to the U.S. adversary training company, Top Aces, which took delivery of its first aircraft in January 2021.
The IAF acquired another 75 F-16 Block 30s - 51 Cs and 24 Ds - under the mid-1980's Peace Marble II deal. Deliveries ran from 1986 to 1988. This version of the aircraft became known as the Lightning (Barak).
In May 1988, after Israel canceled its indigenous Lavi fighter project, the government ordered 60 F-16 Block 40s - 30 Cs and 30 Ds - with an option for 15 more, in a deal known as Peace Marble III. This version of the IAF F-16 is nicknamed Barak II. It is distinguished by a dorsal spine which extends through and past the base of its vertical stabilizer, landing gear and tires which facilitate a higher take-off weight (48,000 lb., compared to 42,300 lb. for U.S. Block 40s), Elbit Flight management computers and, in the third batch, Elisra ECM. Also, the rear seat is reserved for a weapons system operator and an Elta EL/L-8240 ECM takes the place of the ALQ-178 Rapport III ECM. The IAF has confirmed the dorsal spine contains electronic equipment, which analysts believe to include Elisra's SPS-3000 self-protection jammer, SEAD-mission equipment, and specialized bomb guidance equipment associated with the rear seat. These aircraft were delivered from August 1991 to 1993.
After the 1991 Gulf War, during which Iraq launched Scud missiles at Israel but Israel's military refrained from responding, Washington transferred 50 excess USAF F-16s - 34 single seaters and 16 two-seaters - under the Peace Marble IV program. All were of early versions (32 A Block 10s, 5 B Block 10s, 1 A Block 5s, 7 B Block 5s, 3 A Block 1s and 2 B Block 1s) and were called Netz II locally. Approximately half were former U.S. Air Force Reserve or ANG fighters, and the other half were taken out of storage at Davis Monthan AFB. Deliveries began on Aug. 1, 1994 and concluded later that year. These aircraft, which retained their USAF grey color scheme, are used primarily for training.
On January 14, 2000, the IAF chose the F-16D Block 52, over a second batch of F-15Is, to replace the country's F-4s, A-4s and older F-16s. Under Peace Marble V, Jerusalem ordered 50 F-16Ds with an option for 60 more. On September 4, 2001, it exercised the option but reduced the number to 52. This made for a total purchase of 102 F-16D Block 52s for a value of $4.5 billion. As part of the offset agreement, Israeli industry secured $1.5 billion in revenue. Lockheed Martin progressively delivered the aircraft from 2003 to 2009 after which Israeli furnished mission equipment was installed in country.
All Israeli F-16s carry extensive indigenously produced avionics. Israeli F-16 C/Ds originally carried Sharpshooter pods but these were later replaced by Rafael Litening pods. They employ a large number of Israeli weapon systems including the Python 4 and 5 short-range AAMs and the Popeye and Spice air-to-ground missiles. In June 2017, an F-16I was spotted carrying a Rafael Stunner missile. The Stunner interceptor was originally devised to defeat ballistic missiles and features a multi-mode AESA radar and IR seeker, multi-pulse rocket motor, high agility and a hit to kill warhead. Israel has also tested its F-16Is with the Rafael “Rocks” air launched ballistic missile and IAI “Rampage” – derived from the EXTRA ground launched MLRS rocket.
The Italian air force (Aeronautica Militare, AM) leased 34 F-16A/Bs of mostly Block 15 ADF standard and kept them in service from 2003 to 2012 as a stopgap measure until sufficient numbers of Eurofighter Typhoons arrived. AM acquired the F-16s to perform the air defense mission previously performed by the nation's F-104S Starfighters.
In the early 90's, AM initially leased 24 Tornado Air Defense Variant (ADV) fighters to serve in the role. Delays in the Eurofighter program then necessitated extending this bridge solution. When a ten-year extension of the lease proved too expensive, the service turned to the F-16 to fill the gap until the arrival of the last Typhoons. On March 15, 2001, Rome signed an LOA to lease 34 F-16s - 30 F-16A ADF, one F-16B ADF and three F-16B of Block 5/10 - and to purchase four F-16A Block 5s to be used for spare parts. The lease period was five years with an option for another five. The aircraft were provided from stored aircraft at Davis Monthan AFB. Before delivery, they were refurbished and upgraded, undergoing the Falcon-Up structural reinforcement program and receiving uprated F100-220E engines and compatibility with the AIM-120. Delivery occurred between July 2003 and November 2004. On May 23, 2012, the last of the Italian F-16 squadrons disbanded, making Italy the first country to retire the type.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) has acquired 64 F-16A/Bs – 42 single-seaters and 22 two-seaters – of which 16 are ADFs and 39 are MLUs. The service has ordered another 15 former Dutch F-16 MLUs which were delivered in 2017. At the time of this writing, Jordan operates a total of 55 F-16s, including 40 F-16A MLUs and 15 F-16B MLUs.
On July 29, 1996, the U.S. and Jordan signed agreement to lease Amman 16 F-16s - 12 As and four Bs - and provide it with structural modifications, engine upgrades, pilot and maintenance training, support equipment and spare parts. The deal, termed Peace Falcon I, was for $220 million total: an LOA for $215 million covering the support; a $4.5 million lease for three B-models; and a no-cost contract for 12 A and 1 B OCU/ADF-converted models which had reached over 75 percent of their service lives. The aircraft were former USAF and ANG fighters which had been in storage at Davis Monthan AFB. Deliveries began in December 1997 and completed the next year. In 2014, the 13 aircraft remaining from this order were transferred to Pakistan.
Beginning on Jan. 29, 2003, Jordan received a batch of 17 former ANG F-16 Block 15 ADFs - 12 As and five Bs - under the Peace Falcon II program. The aircraft received the Falcon Up and Falcon STAR structural reinforcements and the MLU enhancement in Turkey and were put into operation by 2009.
In 2008 and 2009, under Peace Falcon III, Belgium transferred 16 F-16 MLU fighters - 12 As and four Bs - to Jordan. Originally, RJAF had intended to acquire a total of 14 Belgian and eight Dutch aircraft but the Dutch order was delayed to the next iteration of Peace Falcon.
In the summer of 2009, RJAF received six F-16B MLU aircraft from the Netherlands under Peace Falcon IV, the culmination of a deal originally announced in 2005. In 2009, Brussels put nine F-16 MLU aircraft up for sale and Jordan was the first country to respond. The aircraft - 6 As and three Bs - were delivered in July 2011 under Peace Falcon V. In 2012, the Dutch government announced it would sell 15 of its F-16 MLU aircraft – 13 As and two Bs. Jordan responded and concluded the Peace Falcon VI deal in summer 2013. The aircraft were originally due for delivery in 2014 but were delayed until 2017. These aircraft currently represent the most modern airframes in the RJAF inventory, having been brought up to the M6.5 configuration prior to delivery.
In summer 2016, the RJAF put 15 of its F-16s up for sale –14 As and 1 B – all of which had received the MLU, Falcon UP and Falcon STAR programs and all of which were equipped with F100-PW-220 engines. Pakistan reportedly showed interest after its request to buy new build Block 52s was denied by the U.S. Congress. As of the time of this writing, the sale never materialized. In November 2019, US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee chairman Eliot Engel detailed plans to transfer 15 F-16s to Jordan to be used as spare parts.
RJAF F-16 weapons include the AIM-120C AMRAAM and the country has purchased at least 15 Sniper pods for their aircraft, five in 2014 and 10 in June 2015.
F-16C/D Block 70
In February 2022, the DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of 16 F-16 Block 70s (12Cs, 4Ds) to Jordan as well as associated equipment and support services worth $4.21 billion.
F-16C/D Block 52
In 2007, The Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) purchased 24 F-16C/D Block 52+ aircraft - 16 Cs and eight Ds - in a deal with a total value of $2.4 billion. The aircraft were delivered in 2010 and 2011.
In March 2019, the DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of 25 F-16C/D Block 72 aircraft as well as associated equipment and support services worth $3.787 billion. A second notification outlined plans to upgrade Morocco’s 23 existing F-16C/D Block 52s to the V configuration worth $985.2 million. In September of that year, the DSCA issued two additional notifications covering weapons and sustainment support worth $202 million and $250 million respectively. Notably, the weapons package exclusively covers air-to-surface munitions including 5,810 MK82-1 bombs, 300 Mk84-4 bombs, 180 GBU-10s and 4,125 GBU-12s.
Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract vehicle for F-16 Block 70/72 production in August 2020. The vehicle had a not-to-exceed value of $62 billion but at that time, the initial order was worth $4.9 billion covering 90 F-16s for both Taiwan and Morocco. A subsequent $14 billion contract superseded that initial figure as of May 2021 – covering 128 aircraft worth $14 billion. In July 2021, Raytheon Technologies was awarded $212 million for an undisclosed number of F100-229s by 2025 in support of the RMAF order. Morocco expects to take delivery of its first aircraft in 2024.
In November 2021, the RMAF announced it was looking to upgrade its 5th Air Base (Side Slimane) as well as the 6th Air Base (Ben Guerir) to operate its new F-16s. Morocco’s F-16 fleet expansion and upgrades form a significant part of a larger modernization drive aimed at hedging against Algeria’s growing arsenal of Russian equipment.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has procured a total of 213 F-16s - 177 single-seaters and 36 two-seaters. The country was one of the original EPAF nations and is one of the five nations to have produced the aircraft. Since the end of the Cold War, many aircraft have been retired and a some have been sold to Chile and Jordan. RNLAF has 48 F-16s remaining in service, all of which have been upgraded to MLU standard and are gradually being replaced by the F-35 through 2025.
RNLAF purchased 102 F-16 A/B aircraft - 80 As and 22 Bs - as part of the original EPAF order. These aircraft were produced locally at Fokker, were built at standards ranging from Block 1 to Block 15 and were delivered from June 1979 to 1984.
In December 1983, the Dutch parliament approved the purchase of another 111 fighters - 97 F-16As and 14 F-16Bs. Deliveries began in 1984 and concluded on February 27, 1992. This number includes 59 aircraft delivered from 1984 to 1987 at Block 15 standard and 52 aircraft delivered from 1987 to 1992 at Block 15 OCU standard.
Between 1993 and 2003, 138 RNLAF F-16s underwent the MLU program. Modifications were also made to 18 Dutch F-16s in 1983 to allow them to carry the Orpheus recon pod, resulting in their designation as F-16A(R). This system was replaced in 2000 by the Medium Altitude Reconnaissance System (MARS), which is compatible with all Dutch F-16 MLUs. Weapons for the Dutch F-16 fleet include AIM-9L/M/N, AIM-120, AGM-65D/G, GBU-10/12/24 and CBU-87. Weapons planned for future integration include AIM-9X and JDAM.
Retirements from the Dutch F-16 fleet began in 2003. On Nov. 21, 2005, Jordan signed a letter of intent to purchase three Dutch F-16Bs and added another three F-16Bs to the order in 2007. In December 2006, the Chilean government signed a contract with the Netherlands to purchase 18 used F-16s – 11 As and seven Bs. In May 2008, Chile ordered another 18 second-hand F-16As from the Netherlands, which were delivered in 2010.
On Sept. 17, 2014, the Dutch government announced it had selected the F-35A as the country's next-generation fighter to replace the F-16. 37 F-35As would be procured for €4.5 billion. The country subsequently raised its program of record to 46 F-35As and hopes to eventually procure as many as 67 aircraft.
In June 2021, Draken International announced it would require 12 RNAF F-16s to be used in its adversary air operations in the U.S.
The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) has acquired a total of 74 F-16s - 60 single-seaters and 14 two-seaters - ranging from Block 1 to Block 15 OCU. Of these, 57 remain in service and all have been upgraded to MLU standard.
On July 21, 1975, Norway ordered 60 F-16As and 12 F-16Bs to replace the country's F-104s. The aircraft, ranging from Block 1 to Block 15, were part of the original EPAF order and were manufactured by the Fokker production line in the Netherlands. Deliveries occurred between January 1980 and June 1984. The Block 1 and 5 aircraft were later upgraded to Block 10.
In 1989, two F-16B Block 15 OCU fighters from the General Dynamics production line were delivered to the RNoAF as attrition replacements.
Norwegian F-16s carry braking parachutes in rectangular fairings located at the base of the tail to aid in decelerating on short, snow-covered runways. They carry ALQ-162 internal ECM jammers, which were upgraded with Shadowbox II capability starting in 1998, and are compatible with AIM-120B, Paveway II LGBs (although they cannot self-designate) and the Penguin missile for their important local anti-ship role. Its A-models also carry spotlights for better nocturnal identifications. By 2001, all 57 aircraft remaining in service had undergone the MLU program.
Norway is currently in the process of replacing its F-16 fleet with 50 F-35As through 2025. As of the time of this writing, 32 remain in service. In early December 2021, Norway agreed to sell a dozen F-16s to Draken International for adversary training. The country agreed to sell 32 of its aircraft to Romania later that month in a deal worth €454 million.
The Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) operates 17 F-16C and six F-16D Advanced Block 50 aircraft. In May 2002, Muscat signed an LOA to purchase 12 F-16s of Advanced Block 50 standard – eight Cs and four Ds – through the U.S. FMS program under the Peace A'sama A'safiya I program. Deliveries began on July 19, 2005 and concluded in 2006. One of these aircraft was written off in Sept. 2013.
In December 2011, Oman purchased a second batch of 12 Block 50+ aircraft - 10 Cs and two Ds. This Peace A'sama A'safiya II deal was valued at $600 million. First delivery occurred on Apr. 3, 2014. On July 22, 2014, the first batch of four departed Forth Worth, Texas for the country. The last aircraft was delivered in 2016.
In May 2016, the DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of a $260 million F-16 sustainment package to Oman. On January 5, 2018, State Department issued a notification regarding a $62 million sale which included modernized IFF and incremental Operational Flight Profile software upgrades for subsystems.
Omani F-16s are equipped with CFTs, APG-68(V)XM radars, RR-170 chaff, MJU-7B flares, Sniper pods (which are expected to be replaced by Pantera pods) and the DB-110 recon system. Their weapons include AIM-120C, AIM-9M, AGM-65D/G, AGM-84D Harpoon, EGBU-10/12 LGBs, GBU-31 JDAM and CBU-97/105 sensor fuzed weapons.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has received a total of at least 85 F-16s – 49 single-seaters and 22 two-seaters – ranging from Block 15 to Block 52. This number includes 13 ex-USAF F-16A/B Block 15 ADF aircraft which began were transferred from Jordan to Pakistan in 2014, as well as 14 of 28 Block 15 OCU aircraft that were built for the country in the early 1990s before a U.S. embargo halted their delivery. All older PAF F-16s have now been upgraded to MLU standard. As of the time of this writing, 75 F-16s remained in service with the PAF.
In December 1981, Islamabad signed an LOA for the purchase of 40 F-16A/B Block 15 Aircraft - 28 As and 12 Bs - which would be delivered in two batches. The first batch, of 2 F-16As and 4 F-16Bs, was termed Peace Gate I. The first aircraft was delivered in October 1982 and arrived in country on January 15, 1983. The second batch of 34 aircraft was delivered as part of Peace Gate II and completed delivery in 1987. They are distinguishable by their slightly altered paint scheme, with dark grey covering most of the wings and the fuselage between them, as well as the rear portion of the horizontal tails.
In December 1988, PAF ordered 11 more F-16A/B Block 15 OCU aircraft - six As and five Bs - as attrition replacements under the Peace Gate III program. In September 1989, Islamabad signed a contract to procure another 60 F-17A/Bs of Block 15 OCU standard under a $1.4 billion program titled Peace Gate IV. However, on October 6, 1990, Washington halted delivery of the aircraft over Pakistan's nuclear program (which included modification of its F-16s to deliver nuclear weapons). The 11 Peace Gate III aircraft were placed in storage at Davis Monthan AFB, where the aircraft's fuel system and engines were initially maintained in a flyable state. By the end of 1994, 17 aircraft from Peace Gate IV - 7 As and 10 Bs - had been stored at Davis Monthan AFB as well. A stop-work order prevented completion of the last 43 (41 A and two B) aircraft.
In late 1997, the 28 stored aircraft were taken out of flyable hold and stored with other aircraft in Davis Monthan AFB's Boneyard. Sales of these aircraft to Indonesia and New Zealand were discussed in the mid and late 1990s, but neither reached the delivery stage before cancellation. In 2002, Washington decided to use the aircraft in USAF and USN Aggressor squadrons, evenly splitting the fleet between the two services. However, between 2004 and 2008, Washington transferred the 14 USAF aircraft to Islamabad. The 14 USN aircraft – 10 As and 4 Bs – remained in service with USN Aggressor units, maintained by the service's PMA-226 office.
On Sep. 30, 2006, Pakistan signed an FMS deal with Washington for the purchase of 18 F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft - 12 Cs and six Ds - with an option for 18 more. The deal, termed Peace Drive, may have included delivery of some Peace Gate III/IV aircraft, which would be upgraded to MLU standard.
In April or May 2014, Pakistan began taking delivery of 13 F-16 Block 15 ADF aircraft from Jordan, believed to be the aircraft remaining from the Peace Falcon I order. Early announcements suggested the 13 aircraft would consist of 12 As and one B but photographs of the aircraft in Pakistani possession suggest nine As and four Bs. These aircraft had not undergone the MLU upgrade but it is believed they will soon be upgraded to MLU standard as well. Comments made by a Pakistani officer attending the IQPC Fighter Conference in London in November 2014 suggested delivery of the 13 aircraft was complete.
Older Pakistani F-16s had an upgraded APG-66 radar with performance close to that of the MLU and carried ALQ-131 ECM pods and ATLIS laser designation pods.
On June 29, 2009, PAF contracted with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to upgrade 41 of its older F-16s to MLU standard and implement the Falcon STAR structural upgrade on them. (The number of F-16s included in the upgrade suggests at least of the embargoed aircraft have been delivered to PAF.) The work began in 2010 and finished in September 2014. The new Block 52s and upgraded older aircraft carry the APG-68(V)9, as well as CFTs, helmet-mounted cueing systems, Link 16 datalinks and new EW equipment. Pakistani F-16 weapons include the AIM-9L, AIM-9P-4, Matra Magic 2, Paveway LGBs and French AS-30 laser guided missiles. New and upgraded aircraft will also carry AIM-120C5.
On Feb. 12, 2016, the U.S. DSCA notified Congress of a potential sale of eight additional F-16 Block 52 aircraft – two Cs and six Ds –with associated equipment training and logistics support at a total estimated cost of $699 million. U.S. Senator Rand Paul attempted to block the sale in Congress but was defeated 71-24 in a vote that took place on March 10, 2016. However, Islamabad was expecting to use its U.S. Foreign Military Financing grants to help pay for the deal, and reduce the cost to the nation to $270 million, and use of the FMF funds towards the deal was successfully blocked in the U.S. Congress. Islamabad then chose not to sign the letter of offer and acceptance, which expired on May 24.
The U.S. is growing relationship with India and withdrawal from Afghanistan cast doubt on the prospect of future Pakistani F-16 sales. However, the US continues to provide sustainment support for the existing fleet – including a $125 million package announced in July 2019. Pakistan has since deepened its reliance on China to recapitalize its fighter force by continuing JF-17 production and potentially by acquiring the J-10 in the future.
In February 2019, India claimed to have shot down a PAF F-16 during a brief skirmish. The clash was confirmed to have resulted in the loss of an Indian MiG-21 to a PAF F-16 using an AIM-120C. In April, Foreign Policy reported U.S. officials were invited to inspect Pakistan’s F-16 fleet and found all aircraft were accounted for.
On Apr. 18, 2003, Warsaw signed a contract to acquire 48 F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft - 36 Cs and 12 Ds - under the Peace Sky program to replace the country's MiG-21s and Su-22s. The deal, valued at $3.5 billion, included spare engines, an extensive weapons package and pilot training. It also included large offsets for the Polish economy. Deliveries ran from 2006 to 2009.
Polish F-16s were initially equipped with APG-68(V)9 radars, the ALQ-214(V)4 EW suite, JMHCS, Sniper Extended Range (ER) targeting pods and the DB-110 recon system. Their armament includes the AIM-9X, AIM-120C, JDAM and JSOW.
Poland has since modernized its aircraft to the Tape M6.5 configuration and on Dec. 11, 2014, Warsaw inked a $250 million deal to buy the Lockheed Martin AGM-158A Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) to equip its F-16 Fighting Falcons. The deal includes 40 of the weapons and a upgrade program which will integrate the weapon onto the country’s F-16 fleet as part of a program called Polish Fangs. In September 2018, the Polish MoD sent the USG a Letter of Request for AGM-88E AARGM anti-radiation missiles but the DSCA has yet to issue an associated notification.
In February 2021, spokesman for of the Armament Inspectorate – Major Krzysztof Platek, announced the MoD was analyzing proposals to upgrade and potentially expand its Viper fleet. As part of the modernization plan released in 2019, the Polish Air Force was examining an additional one to two squadrons of F-16s to complement its 32 F-35s on order (the first F-35 squadron will deliver from 2024-2026, the second from 2028-2030). The existing F-16s could receive elements of the F-16V upgrade such as the 12,000 hrs. service life extension and the APG-83 SABR.
The F-16 currently represents the backbone of the Polish Air Force TACAIR fleet, complemented by 18 Su-22s and 24 MiG-29s. However, Polish media have often reported the Viper fleet suffers from low availability and access to spare parts. In response to media reporting, the Polish MoD has stated its F-16s flew 98.59% of planned flight hours.
The Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa, FAP) has received a total of 45 F-16A/B Block 15 aircraft. Today, 24 remain in operation, all of which have been upgraded to MLU standard. Lisbon has agreed to sell 17 of its aircraft to Romania.
In August 1990, Lisbon signed an LOA for 20 F-16 Block 15 OCU aircraft - 17 As and three Bs. The deal, termed Peace Atlantis I, included logistical support, pilot/maintenance instruction, spare parts and various assistance arrangements for different parts of the aircraft. The aircraft are almost of an ADF standard, with the exception that they lack the AIFF antennas. Deliveries began on Feb. 18, 1994 and concluded that year.
On Nov. 30, 1998, Lisbon signed an LOA to receive 25 excess USAF F-16s - 21 As and four Bs - of Block 15 standard. The deal, termed Peace Atlantis II, was valued at $268 million. The aircraft were provided at no charge. The cost covered transportation, logistics support, training and $185 million worth of M5.2 upgrade kits for 20 of the aircraft (16 As and four Bs), which included new engines (F100-PW-200E) and other equipment to enable nighttime and all-weather attack missions. The remaining five aircraft were to be used for spare parts. The aircraft were delivered in 1999 and the upgrades were completed by 2003.
In 2013, Lisbon signed a contract to transfer 12 of its aircraft - nine single seaters and three two-seaters - to Romania. In 2019, Romania bought five additional Portuguese Vipers (four single seat and one twin seat) for €250 million. An additional five airframes were sold in 2019 and delivered in March 2021. Leaving the FAP with 21 F-16A MLUs and three F-16B MLUs.
FAP's F-16 configurations are referred to at the F-16AM for the one-seater and F-16BM for the two-seater. They employ the ALQ-131 ECM pod. The M5.1 MLU upgrades included a Block 50 standard cockpit with color MFDs, modular mission computer, APG-66(V)2 radar, AIFF system, digital terrain system, GPS system, improved datalink, EW management system and provisions for recon pods and helmet-mounted displays. FAP F-16 weapons include the AIM-7F, AIM-9, AIM-120 and AGM-65.
Romania announced on Oct. 11, 2013 that it had completed the purchase of 12 F-16 Block 15 MLU aircraft - nine F-16AMs and three F-16BMs - from Portugal to replace its MiG-21 Lancers. The Romanian MoD announced the total program cost was €628 million ($712 million) for the acquisition and overhaul work. Of this sum, Portugal was paid €180 million ($205 million) for its aircraft. Aerostar conducted the overhaul work locally with the assistance of Lockheed Martin. The DSCA package announced in November of that year was worth $457 million. The sale was designated as “Peace Carpathian I” by the U.S. and deliveries ran from 2016 to 2017. The Portuguese aircraft were of the M5.2 configuration which corrected deficiencies with the earlier M5.1 package that included: Link 16 enhancements, ARC-210 VHF radios, advanced stores management system, AGM-154 integration and a new GPS system. They were subsequently upgraded to the M5.2R configuration, effectively taking them up to the Block 50/52 standard.
In August 2019, the Portuguese government approved the sale of five additional F-16s to Romania worth €130 million. These aircraft were delivered between August 2020 and March 2021. On Nov. 3, 2020, the DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of logistics and modernization support for Romania’s F-16s worth $175.4 million. The sale included LN-260 GPS units, APX-126 IFFs and ARC-210 radios.
In 2019, the Romanian MoD sent requests to Belgium, Greece, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal for 16 to 32 secondhand F-16s. In December 2021, Romania’s MoD announced it would acquire 32 secondhand F-16A/B MLUs from Norway. The MoD expects to pay €354 million ($400 million) to Norway and an additional €100 million to Aerostar for overhaul work. The Norwegian F-16s have approximately 2,500 flight hrs. of service life remaining (10 years) and are more modernized than the earlier Portuguese aircraft. The M6.5 configuration includes an updated ALR-56M ECM system, AAQ-14 interface system, Link 16 protocol, GPS system and universal armament interface for weapons integration.
In 2019, Vice Admiral Winter – who lead the F-35 JPO, announced Romania was a potential future FMS customer for the F-35.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) operates 60 F-16C/D Advanced Block 52s - 20 single-seaters and 40 two-seaters. It had earlier acquired another eight F-16A/Bs of Block 15 OCU standard; one of these crashed in 1990 and the rest were transferred to Thailand in 2007.
F-16A/B Block 1-15
In January 1985, Singapore ordered eight F-16/79 fighters - a reduced-cost version of the Falcon with a GE J79 engine - with an option for 12 more. The aircraft were intended to replace RSAF's Hawker Hunters. In 1985, the country changed its order to F-16 Block 15 OCUs - four As and four Bs - which were, however, built with a Block 30 standard airframe. The deal was termed Peace Carvin I. Deliveries began on February 20, 1988 and concluded that year. In 1990, one F-16 was lost in a mid-air collision with another. In 2007, the remaining aircraft were sold to Thailand.
F-16C/D Block 52
In 1994, the Singapore MoD announced plans to acquire 18 F-16C/D Block 52+ aircraft - eight Cs and 10 Ds - under the Peace Carvin II program. These aircraft would carry Pathfinder and Sharpshooter pods and be compatible with the AIM-120 and AGM-88. The first aircraft were delivered on Apr. 19, 1998 and arrived in country on Aug. 14, 1998. The last arrived that year.
While most of Singapore's aircraft have been purchased and then operated out of the island nation, RSAF has maintained a contingent of F-16s for training at Luke AFB in the U.S. These aircraft were initially provided through leases. This arrangement began in 1993 when RSAF leased nine F-16As that were previously used for the USAF Thunderbirds Flight Demonstration team. That lease ran until 1996, when 12 F-16C/D Block 52s - four Cs and eight Ds - were leased for a 2.5-year period with the option to purchase them at the conclusion. Under Peace Carvin III, RSAF's contract for training at Luke AFB was extended until 2018 and analysts believe RSAF exercised the option to purchase the leased aircraft to continue to support the training.
On July 21, 2000, the country announced an order for another batch of 20 F-16D Block 52s. These aircraft, like the D-models from the previous order, have an extended, rectangular dorsal spine that houses a large ECM suite, believed to include the SPS-3000 due to the similarity of the fairing to the one present on Israeli F-16D Block 40s. Deliveries began towards the end of 2003 and were complete by the end of 2004.
RSAF F-16s are equipped with the DASH-3 Helmet-Mounted Sight and their weapons include the AIM-120, Python IV and AGM-84.
On Jan. 14, 2014 the DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of an upgrade package for 60 F-16s for Singapore worth $2.43 billon. The upgrade included “70 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radars” as well as 70 APX-125 IFF transponders, 70 JHMCS sets and 70 GPS units. The DSCA issued a second notification in May 2015 worth $130 million covering “additional requirements not previously identified in congressional notification 13-67.” Equipment listed in the new notice included 50 JHMCS sets, 90 APX-126 AIFF systems, 12 LN-260 GPS/INS navigation systems and 92 Link-16 MIDS-LVT datalinks. In December 2015, the DoD awarded Lockheed an $914 million undefinitized contract (FA8615-16-C-6048) for the upgrade work. At the time of award, work was scheduled to be completed by June 30, 2023.
In February 2020, the DoD issued a $67.5 million contract modification, bringing the total value to $1.008 billion. A June 2021 armed services board of contract appeals filing on behalf of Lockheed states “after a period of several years, the parties were unable to come to an agreement upon the contract prices and, on February 12, 2020, the CO issued contract modifications to unilaterally set the price of each contract.” In February 2020, Major-General Kelvin Khong confirmed the program was moving forward with initial prototyping work being done by Lockheed at Fort Worth and serial production would be undertaken locally by ST Aerospace. He stated the first RSAF F-16V would be rolled out by the end of 2021. As of early 2022, the company has not made the announcement.
Singapore is likely to eventually replace its F-16s with the F-35. The country has placed a small initial order for the type to evaluate its operational effectiveness before committing to a larger fleet. The DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of four F-35Bs with options for eight additional aircraft worth $2.75 billion in January 2020. The first aircraft are expected to deliver in 2026.
In 2016, Slovakia began examining options to replace its 10 MiG-29AS and two MiG-29UBS. The government began talks with Saab for 8-12 JAS 39C/Ds in a similar 10–15-year leasing agreement as the Czech Republic. The Slovak MoD was also examining secondhand F-16s in 2017 but opted to delay a source selection for its fighter tender due to budgetary pressures.
In April 2018, the DSCA released a notification regarding the potential sale of 14 Block 70/72 F-16s as well as associated equipment and support services worth $2.91 billion. In July 2018, Slovak Defense Minister Peter Gajdos explained the decision saying the U.S. Block 70 package was superior “in all aspects” and called it the “best possible solution.” Prime Minister Peter Gajdos announced the country expects to pay €1.589 billion ($1.86 billion) for the aircraft, munitions and two years of support services. On Nov. 30, 2018, the Slovak Government signed three LoAs for the acquisition of F-16s. A Slovak MoD report released On July 10, 2018 meticulously detailed its assessment of the Block 70 vs. the Gripen C/D MS.20. The Viper was found to have significantly better range as well as on station time, transonic acceleration, superior avionics and mission systems and the U.S. logistics and support package was rated as superior.
On July 31, 2019, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $799.95 million production contract for Slovakia’s Block 70s. The contract does not include engines which were awarded as part of a broader FMS F110-129 production contract in April of 2020. In October 2021, Slovak Minister of Defense Jaro visited the F-16 production line to commemorate the assembly of the first Slovak Block 70. Slovakia had expected to take delivery of its 12 F-16C Block 70s and two F-16D Block 70s between 2023-2024 but delays from a Block 70/72 subcomponent supplier may delay this further. 22 Slovak pilots and 160 ground support personnel will be trained to support the Block 70 standup. Pilots will begin on the L-39 in country prior to transferring to the U.S. for T-6, T-38 and F-16 conversion training.
The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has acquired 180 F-16C/Ds – 125 single-seaters and 55 two-seaters – of Block 30 and Block 52 standard. ROKAF is presently fielding upgrades which will result in a fleet split between 35 F-16C/D Block 32s in the Peace Bridge Upgrade (PBU) configuration and 134 F-16C/D Block 52s modernized to the latest V configuration.
F-16C/D Block 32
In December 1981, Seoul signed an LOA to purchase 36 F-16C/D Block 32 aircraft under the Peace Bridge I program. In June 1988, residual funds from the program allowed ROK to purchase another four F-16D Block 32s. The aircraft were delivered from 1986 to 1992. 27 C model and 7 D model aircraft remain in active service.
In May 2009, the DSCA notified Congress of an upgrade package for 35 South Korean Block 32 aircraft worth $250 million. The upgrade facilitated employment of the AIM-120 and JDAM with the MIL-STD-1760 data bus as well as providing an improved data modem, secure voice capabilities, spare and repairs as well as training services. Work was completed in 2016. In March 2020, the DSCA issued a notification regarding the sale of Mode 5 IFFs (APX-126) and Link 16 equipment for South Korea’s Block 32s worth $194 million. In May 2020, a ROKAF PBU F-16 reached 10,000 flight hrs. after 34 years of service. The ROKAF is expected to replace its PBU fleet with KAI’s KF-21 in the early 2030s.
F-16C/D Block 52
In the early 90s, Seoul decided to acquire 120 F-16 Block 52 aircraft - 80 Cs and 40 Ds - as part of the country's Korea Fighter Program. The aircraft would be designated KF-16s locally. Under the agreement, termed Peace Bridge II, the first 12 aircraft would be produced by Lockheed at is Fort Worth plant, the next 36 would be delivered in kit form and assembled locally and the last 72 would be manufactured by Samsung Aerospace in South Korea. First delivery occurred on Dec. 2, 1994. First delivery of a locally manufactured aircraft occurred on June 30, 1997. Deliveries concluded in 2000.
On July 27, 2000, Seoul decided to purchase another 20 F-16s - 15 Cs and five Ds - of Advanced Block 52 standard under the Peace Bridge III program. These aircraft would be produced locally by Korea Aerospace Industries. Deliveries occurred in 2003 and 2004.
ROKAF's Block 52 F-16s carry the LANTRIN, the ALR-56M RWR, ALE-47 chaff/flare dispensers and, beginning in 1999, the ALQ-165 Airborne Self-Protection Jammer (ASPJ). The Korean F-16 fleet's weapons include the AIM-7, AIM-9, AIM-120, AGM-65, and AGM-88.
In December 2013, Seoul contracted with BAE Systems to design an upgrade for 134 of its F-16s which would feature the AESA-equipped Raytheon Air Combat Radar, the ALR-69A RWR and a new modular mission computer. However, the deal collapsed when USAF (as a party to the deal through the Foreign Military Sales system) insisted Seoul pay more than the $1.3 billion the country expected. According to a report in the Seoul-based Chosun Daily, USAF asked for 40% increase in the contract amount, consisting of ₩300 billion won ($270 million) that BAE sought as “additional costs” and ₩500 billion won ($450 million) that USAF wanted for “program delay risk management,” apparently meaning a contingency reserve. BAE stuck by its original estimate of $1.3 billion and asserted USAF added scope to the work, including testing based on legacy upgrade programs which were not necessary due to new commercial practices the company was using.
ROKAF then turned to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to provide the upgrade. On July 15, 2015, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the potential sale of the upgrade. The $2.5 billion package included 150 units each of the MMC 7000AH Modular Mission Computer, an AESA radar, the APX-125 or equivalent AIFF interrogator/transponder, LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS navigation system, an upgraded RWR and the ALQ-213 EW management unit.
On Nov. 18, 2016, Lockheed was awarded an undefinitized FMS upgrade contract, FA8615-l 7-C-6045, with a not to exceed value of $1.2 billion. Work would be completed by Nov. 15, 2025. The DoD subsequently definitized the contract (PZ0012) at $970 million. South Korea’s Parliament approved ₩830 billion ($698 million) in 2020 for the program out of the projected ₩2.2 trillion ($1.85 billion).
In August 2019, the first KF-16C Block 52 (V) took flight (92-021) from Fort Worth, TX. The aircraft was subsequently transferred to the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, CA later that year. The second aircraft, a F-16D Block 52 (V) #92-046, departed for Edwards in October of 2020.
On July 31, 2020, Lockheed was awarded a contract modification worth $34 million for SLEP services for Korea’s F-16. The announcement states work will be performed in South Korea and completed by August 15, 2026. Korean media report a total of 10 KF-16s were modified in country to the V configuration in 2020. In 2021, a total of two squadrons had received the F-16V upgrade.
The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) has acquired a total of 150 F-16A/B Block 20 aircraft. As of early 2022, the surviving 140 aircraft are undergoing conversion to the F-16V configuration.
In November 1992, Taiwan signed an FMS agreement to purchase 150 F-16A/B Block 20 aircraft - 120 As and 30 Bs - to replace the country's F-104s and F-5Es. The aircraft are Block 15 OCU models built to MLU standard. The cost of this “Peace Fenghuang” deal was estimated at $6 billion. The aircraft were delivered between 1997 and 2001.
Taiwan's F-16A/B Block 20s are equipped with F100-PW-220 engines, the APG-66(V)3 radar, APX-111 IFF transponder, Pathfinder navigation pods, Sharpshooter targeting pods, ALR-56M RWR, ALQ-184(V)7 ECM pods, ALE-47 chaff/flare dispensers, VDS-5 recon pods, modular mission computers, LCD displays, wide-angle HUDs and GPS navigation systems. Their weapons include the AIM-7M, AIM-9M/P4, AIM-120C5/7, AGM-65G and AGM-84G/L.
On Sep. 21, 2011, the U.S. DSCA notified Congress of a potential sale to Taiwan of 145 F-16s at a projected cost of $5.3 billion. Taiwan became the launch customer for the F-16V, consisting of a SLEP, APG-83 AESA, center pedestal display, modular mission computer, embedded GPS navigation system and advanced targeting sensors. The ROCAF had sought to replace its legacy ALQ-184 jammer pod with the DRFM capable ALQ-131A, but the U.S. withdrew from the program in 2017. Weapons for the upgraded aircraft will include AIM-9X, GBU-31/38 JDAMs, GBU-54 Laser-JDAM, EGBU-10/24 and CBU-105. “HAVE GLASS II” radar cross section reduction “applications” were also included in the notification. Taiwan also studied the possibility of upgrading its F-16s' engines to the more powerful F100-PW-229 but the proposal proved too costly.
In 2012, Washington and Taipei signed a letter of offer and acceptance to cover upgrades to 145 aircraft at a cost of $3.8 billion. The DoD subsequently awarded Lockheed $1.85 billion in October of that year as part of the FMS process. In Feb. 2015, Northrop Grumman received a production contract from Lockheed Martin for 142 SABRs. Lockheed modified two aircraft in the U.S. to serve as prototypes at Edwards Air Force Base. The first of which, F-16A Block 20 (V) #93-0702 (6601), took flight in October 2015.
Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) began conversion work on its first four airframes in January 2017. The first airframe was delivered to the ROCAF almost two years later in November 2018. Thereafter, AIDC delivered 4 upgraded aircraft in 2018, 11 in 2019, 22 in 2020 and 27 in 2021. In March 2021, the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing declared initial operational capability for the F-16V. In November of that year, the ROCAF commemorated the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing’s (comprised of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd Fighter Tactical Fighter Groups) transition to the F-16V. At that time, the ROCAF had a total fleet of 64 F-16Vs. Note, 13 aircraft are assigned to the 21st FS based at Luke AFB, AZ, for pilot training with U.S. instructors. These aircraft were briefly returned to Taiwan for conversion. Two further test aircraft (A model 6601 and B model 6801) are assigned to the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, CA, and fly with U.S. markings.
AIDC had hoped to reach conversion rate of 24 airframes per year and conclude by 2023. However, staffing problems, lack of experience in systems integration and higher than expected airframe fatigue on the inducted airframes delayed the program between 2017-2018. As of early 2022, 10 ROCAF F-16s have been lost in accidents (7As and 3Bs) leaving a total of 140 airframes to be converted.
F-16 Block 70
The ROCAF has long maintained an overall requirement for 450 fighters. The acquisition of 130 FC-K-1s, 60 Mirage 2000-5s and 150 F-16A/Bs during the 1990s left the service 110 fighters short of that goal. Taiwan received briefings on the F-35 in 2002 as an F-5 replacement but export approval and budgetary issues precluded that option. In 2006 as part of the Monterey Talks forum, Taiwan expressed its intent to acquire 66 additional F-16s to mitigate its fighter shortfall. The U.S. Government reportedly refused three separate Taiwanese Letter of Requests (LORs) between 2006-2008. The Bush Administration first refused to authorize the sale in response to Taiwan failing to pass special budgets to permit a series of 2001 arms sales including P-3s and PAC-3 Patriot missiles. Taiwan would later authorize funding for 66 additional aircraft but by 2008, the U.S. was under increasing pressure from China to withhold fighter sales. Lockheed increasingly came to view export of new build Taiwanese aircraft as essential to prolonging the F-16 production line past Iraqi’s order. For its part, the U.S. Government concluded F-16s would be vulnerable to Chinese Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) due to their inability to disperse to austere runways. China announced that the sale of new fighters constitutes a “red line” and the Obama Administration instead offered the aforementioned F-16V upgrade package as well as UH-60Ms, Patriot missiles and P-3s.
In 2017, the newly inaugurated Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen announced special budgets will be brought back to finance large defense procurements. The deterioration of Sino-American relations under the Trump Administration allowed Taiwan to submit an LoR for 66 F-16s in 2019. On Aug. 20, 2019, DSCA released a notification regarding the potential sale of 66 F-16C/D Block 70s as well as associated equipment and support services worth $8 billion. Notably, Taiwan elected to procure Block 70s with GE F110-129s rather than the Block 72 with the F100-229. The ROCAF’s existing F-16V fleet uses the P&W F100-220.
A total of 56 F-16C and 10 F-16D Block 70s will be procured under Feng Xiang (Phoenix Rising) program. Taiwan had planned to induct the first of its aircraft in 2023 and the last by 2026 – this may now be delayed by a year due to issues with a subcomponent supplier according to Lockheed. Relative to its F-16Vs, the Block 70 fleet offers additional capability with their CFTs and internal ViperShield ECM system.
The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has received a total of 61 F-16A/Bs - 46 single-seaters and 15 two-seaters. This number includes 18 purchased second hand from the U.S. (two of which would be used for spare parts) and seven it received from Singapore in exchange for the use of Thai training facilities. As of the time of this writing, 45 aircraft remain operational including 18 F-16A/B MLUs and 27 A/B Block 15s.
In December 1987, Bangkok signed an LOA to purchase 12 F-16A/B Block 15 OCU aircraft - eight As and four Bs - under the Peace Naresuan I program. All deliveries occurred in 1988. In the late 1990s, Bangkok ordered a second batch of six F-16A Block 15 OCU aircraft under Peace Naresuan II. Deliveries ran from 1990 to 1991. In September 1995, Bangkok ordered another 18 F-16A/B Block 15 OCU aircraft - 12 As and six Bs - under Peace Naresuan III. Deliveries began in 1995 and ended in February 1996.
On July 14, 2000, Bangkok announced a decision to purchase 16 ex-U.S. F-16s of ADF standard - 15As and one B. Included in the deal were another two Block 10 OCU aircraft which would be used for spare parts. This deal was termed Peace Naresuan IV. The aircraft were delivered in 2002 and 2003. Lastly, On Nov. 18, 2004, Thailand announced it would receive seven Singaporean F-16A/B Block 15 OCU aircraft - three As and four Bs - in exchange for allowing RSAF to train on its Udon Thani Air Base.
In September 2010, the DSCA issued a notification regarding the potential sale of 18 MLU upgrade kits to Thailand worth $700 million. The kits included the APG-68(V)9 radar, ALE-47 CMDS, ALQ-213 EW management system, APX-113 IFF, Modular Mission Computer, JHMCS, Link 16 and Diehl IRIS-T AAM capability. The 12 As and six B model airframes also received the FALCON STAR structural life assurance program to ensure 8,000 hrs. of airframe life – extending the fleet to 2035. Work was carried out in country by Thai Aviation Industries at Takhli Nakhonsawan from 2012-2015.
The RTAF’s 2020 Defense White Paper outlined a requirement to replace its F-16A/B ADFs at Squadron 102 with 12 new multi-role fighters. The aircraft would be purchased in two tranches of six aircraft each, the first running from FY2023-2026 and the second from FY2025-2028. In April 2021, the RTAF announced it had retired a pair of F-16A/Bs (A model #10207 & B model #10321). The airframes likely exhausted their service lives as they were built in 1982 and 1988 respectively.
In January 2022, Air Chief Marshall Napadej Dhupatemiya stated the RTAF was interested in acquiring eight F-35s to be based at Wing 1 at Nakhon Ratchasima. He stated the service had also considered the Gripen E but it was more expensive at $85 million per tail. The procurement would be initiated in FY2023 pending negotiations. The announcement was met with much skepticism by U.S. aerospace industry analysts. After the 2014 coup, Thailand has sought to build its military-to-military relationship with China encompassing arms imports and air combat exercises.
The Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri, THK) has procured a total of 270 F-16C/D aircraft - 210 single-seaters and 60 two-seaters - of Block 30, 40 and 50 standards. Of these, 217 were later upgraded to CCIP standard. Turkey is also one of the five countries to produce the aircraft, through Turkish Aircraft Industries (TAI). The company also operates a major regional maintenance and upgrade center for the aircraft and has produced wings, center fuselages and aft fuselages for U.S. F-16s. TAI also works on the F110 program through its subsidiary, TEI. As of the time of this writing, 235 F-16s remain in service with the TAF. The country had planned to replace its remaining F-16C/D Block 30s and F-4s with F-35As but is now seeking additional F-16C/D Block 70s and F-16V upgrades following its expulsion from the JSF program.
F-16C/D Block 30/40/50/50+
In September 1983, Ankara announced a plan to purchase 160 F-16C/Ds - 136 Cs and 24 Ds - under the Peace Onyx I FMS program. The first eight would be built by Lockheed at Fort Worth and the remaining 152 by TAI at Akinci. The first 43 aircraft were built to Block 30 standard, the remainder to Block 40. Delivery of the first two aircraft occurred in March 1987. These aircraft arrived in Turkey in October of that year. First flight of a Turkish-built F-16 occurred on Oct. 20, 1987. Deliveries concluded in 1995.
In March 1992, Ankara ordered 40 Block 50 F-16s - 34 Cs and six Ds - under the Peace Onyx II program. These aircraft were delivered in 1996 and 1997. Later, another 40 were ordered - 26 Cs and 14 Ds - as attrition replacements under Peace Onyx III. Deliveries occurred in 1998 and 1999.
In May 2007, the US and Turkish governments agreed on the sale of another 30 Block 50+ F-16s - 14 Cs and 16 Ds. These aircraft would also be built at TAI and would serve as attrition replacements and as a stop-gap measure until the induction of the F-35. Aircraft produced under this Peace Onyx IV program were delivered in 2011 and 2012. As part of the arrangement, Turkey obtained the source code required to modify the software of its F-16s, paving the way for future domestic upgrades.
THK Block 40 F-16s use F110-GE-100 engines license-built by TEI and are equipped with the APG-68(V) radar, LANTIRN, digital flight controls and an ASELAN license-built LN-39 Inertial Navigation System (INS) with GPS capability. They can carry the AIM-7 and AIM-120, among other weapons. Starting in 1994, TAI conducted the Falcon-Up structural re-enforcement on Peace Onyx I aircraft. THK Block 50 aircraft carry APR-68(V)5 radars, new RWRs and a secure-voice comms system. They can also fire the AGM-88. THK F-16s are also known to be compatible with the AGM-65A/B. For ECMs, Peace Onyx I aircraft were equipped with ALQ-178(V)3 Rapport III units. Peace Onyx III F-16s received ALQ-178(V)5s, which were later backfitted to earlier THK F-16s. As of 2019, the THK had a requirement to fit 60 aircraft with the improved ALQ-178(V)5+. The ALQ-131 ECM pod may also be in use on THK aircraft.
In April 2005, Ankara signed an LOA to upgrade 217 THK F-16s (38 Block 30s, 104 Block 40s and 76 Block 50s) to CCIP standard. The package includes: APG-68(V)9 radar, color cockpit displays, new avionics processors, JMHCS, Link 16, an AIFF interrogator/transponder, enhanced navigation systems and an advanced EW system. CCIP aircraft will be able to employ AIM-9X, Python 5, AIM-120C, IRIS-T, Derby, AGM-84H SLAM-ER, AGM-154A/B JSOW, CBU-103/105 and Penguin.
F-16 Block 70 & F-16V
In October 2021, reports emerged that Turkey was seeking 40 new build Block 70s and seeking to remanufacture 80 of its Block 50s to the latest V configuration. The prospective arms package was reportedly worth $6 billion and was being reviewed by the U.S. State Department and National Security Council. The sale would provide a diplomatic offramp to both countries whose relations have deteriorated markedly since Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 program in July 2019 following its acquisition of the Russian S-400 SAM system in violation of U.S. CASTA sanctions. President Erdogan discussed the prospective sale with President Biden in November 2021. Biden was reportedly said he was receptive to the sale but predicted it had a 50-50 chance of passing Congress. Senator Menendez (D-NJ) of the Foreign Relations Committee has already announced his opposition to the sale.
Project Özgür & Domestic Upgrades
The loss of the F-35 represented a significant blow to the THK’s modernization priorities as it now must rely upon its Viper fleet until the indigenous TAI TF-X enters service in meaningful quantities in the 2030s. Regional rivals such as Greece, Israel and Russia have already fielded more modern fighters than the THK’s F-16C/D Block 50+ in recent years. Prior to the F-16V upgrade announcement, Turkey has pursued Project Özgür (Liberty) – a program to SLEP its Block 30 fleet to 12,000 hrs. and replace U.S. components with indigenous ones including Aselsan cockpit avionics. Aselsan has also been developing an indigenous F-16 AESA since 2019 as well as the ALQ-178(V)5+ SPEWS-II EW system. An expanded Project Özgür with a new AESA, EW suite and SLEP could grant Turkey a fallback option if the U.S. denies the F-16V upgrade package.
Turkey has already developed indigenous missiles its F-16s under project Gökdoğan (Peregrine) by the Defense Industries Research and Development Institute. The Bozdoğan (Merlin) is an IR guided missile with a range of 25 km (13.5 nmi) and bears a striking similarity to the Raytheon AIM-9X. Similarly, Gökdoğan is a BVR missile with a 65 km (35 nmi) range that closely resembles Raytheon’s AIM-120C. The missiles underwent ground firing tests between 2018 and 2019 prior to a series of successful air launch tests in April 2021. The missiles are expected to enter serial production between 2022 in 2023.
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
On May 12, 1998, Abu Dhabi announced it would procure 80 F-16E/F Block 60 aircraft - 55 Es and 25 Fs - as part of a $7 billion deal which included $3 billion to development the variant, for which the UAE remains the sole operator. Deliveries occurred from the end of 2003 through 2006. In January 2014, the U.S. government announced the potential sale of equipment to support a deal between Abu Dhabi and Lockheed for another 30 F-16s of a Block 61 standard. However, the UAE declined to procure additional aircraft.
As part of the 2017 Dubai Air Show, the UAE and Lockheed announced a 6 billion AED ($1.6 billion) upgrade package for its Block 60 fleet. The company declined to provide further details. No corresponding DSCA release has been released as of the time of this writing, indicating the work is likely being conducted through the DCS route.
In 1982, Caracas agreed to purchase 24 F-16A/B Block 15 aircraft - 18 As and six Bs - to replace the Mirage III and V in service with the Venezuelan Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Venezolana, FAV). The FMS deal, termed Peace Delta, covered 72 aircraft but budget constraints limited the number purchased to 24. Deliveries began in September 1983 and ended in 1984.
FAV has lost three of these aircraft in crashes. In October 1997, Washington approved the sale of two F-16s as attrition replacements as well as an upgrade package for the remaining aircraft. However, this deal was later halted due to the change in government in Caracas.
At the time of writing, the FAZ has nine remaining F-16A/Bs. FAV F-16s carry Litening targeting pods and are compatible with the AIM-9L, Python four and, possibly, various precision-guided munitions of Israeli manufacture.
Adversary Air Companies
Top Aces acquired its first of 29 Israeli F-16A/Bs in February 2021. Draken International similarly plans to acquire 24 F-16AM/BMs from the Netherlands and Norway. These aircraft will be refurbished and used to support adversary training for both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. The European Participating Air Forces of Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway have all announced plans to acquire the F-35 and their retiring F-16AM/BM fleets will likely be of high interest to both red air companies and countries looking for secondhand aircraft.
India (Ongoing Competition)
India Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) originally began as a follow-on order for Mirage 2000s following their success in the Kargil conflict in 1999. The U.S. and Russia each lobbied to have their respective F-16 and MiG-29 offerings compete in the early 2000s and by 2007, the requirement had grown to 126 aircraft. The IAF evaluated the Saab Gripen C/D, Lockheed F-16C/D, Boeing F/A-18E/F, Mikoyan MiG-35, Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon between 2009-2010 with the latter two being selected as finalists in April 2011. The Rafale was declared the winner in January 2012. India sought to import 18 airframes from France and have HAL license produce the remaining 108 aircraft worth $15 billion. The tortuous technology transfer negotiations that followed eventually ended in failure in 2015 after Dassault essentially concluded HAL was incapable of producing the Rafale. A €7.87 billion ($8.7 billion) government-to-government deal for 36 Rafales followed in September 2016 to serve as an interim requirement.
In 2016, Lockheed and the U.S. government offered to shift the entire F-16 production line to India if New Delhi chose the aircraft to fill a 90-aircraft requirement left open by the cancellation of the MMRCA. If chosen, India’s Tata Advanced Systems would produce F-16s for India as well as all other future export customers. At the time, the F-16s future was uncertain. Lockheed had to transfer the production line elsewhere to accommodate the F-35 production ramp at Ft. Worth. The Obama Administration had denied the sale of 66 new build aircraft to Taiwan and orders for Iraq would conclude in 2017. The company has since walked back its promise as the de facto MMRCA 2.0 tender has languished and strong international demand for the Block 70/72 materialized with the stand-up of the new Greenville, SC, production line. In December 2021, Lockheed announced Tata would produce the wings for the F-21 in India.
As of the early 2022, the competition remains ongoing. The IAF's budget cannot support the concurrent procurement of 114 international fighters, 200+ Tejas Mk.2 and the 5th-generation AMCA. Meanwhile, the IAF’s MiG-21 fleet still requires urgent replacement with the loss of at least 116 aircraft and 100 pilots since 1990.