By Asif Shamim
The first F-16 Block 70 aircraft for the Slovak Republic was unveiled at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Greenville, South Carolina, during a visit from the country’s Minister of Defence, Martin Sklenár.
The jets are manufactured for Slovakia as part of the F-16 contract awarded in 2019. With delivery expected in 2024, Slovakia will be the first European country to add the newest and most capable version of the Fighting Falcon to its inventory.
“These F-16s will enable the Slovak Air Force to stay ahead of threats in the region, and be part of the allied mission in Europe, NATO, and around the world,” said OJ Sanchez, vice president, of Integrated Fighter Group at Lockheed Martin.
The aircraft with the service registration number 1001 and the Slovak Republic emblem is the first of 14 F-16 Block 70 jets ordered by Slovakia from Lockheed Martin for $1.8 billion. Other than 12 single-seat F-16C fighter jets and two double-seat F-16D trainers, the agreement also covers training, ammunition, and logistics services for Slovak Air Force personnel.
Slovakia’s first F-16 Block 70 fighter jet will begin test flights in November 2023 and will be delivered to the Slovak Air Force in the second quarter of 2024. The delivery of all aircraft is expected to continue until 2028.
The latest iteration of the F-16, designated as the F-16 Block 70/72 and commonly referred to as the F-16V (nicknamed Viper, the name fighter pilots have called the F-16 from its beginnings.), incorporates several enhancements. These include the advanced Northrop-Grumman AESA AN/APG-83 SABR radar, an upgraded powerplant with either the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 or General Electric F110-GE-129 engine for improved performance, a state-of-the-art mission computer, and a fully integrated cockpit featuring an all-screen interface compatible with night vision goggles, among various other modernization features.
With delivery expected in 2024, Slovakia will be the first European country to add the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet to its inventory. These aircraft will replace the Russian-made MiG-29 “Fulcrum” fighter jets that Slovakia retired at the end of 2022 and later decided to donate to Ukraine. The decision to give the Kyiv administration 13 “MiG-29” fighter jets was approved by Slovakia’s parliament on March 17 and the first shipment of four units was made on March 23. The remaining nine aircraft were delivered to the Ukrainian Air Force by land in April.