Lockheed Martin presents first F-16C Block 70 to Slovak Defence officials

Lockheed Martin has rolled out the first F-16C Block 70 Fighting Falcon for the Slovak Armed Forces. The event took place at Lockheed Martin's Greenville production facility in South Carolina on September 6, 2023. Slovak Defence Minister Martin Sklenár and other high-ranking officials were in attendance.

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Lockheed Martin presents first F 16C Block 70 to Slovak Defence Officials 925   Lockheed Martin has rolled out the first F-16C Block 70 Fighting Falcon for the Slovak Armed Forces (Picture source: Lockheed Martin)

This aircraft is the first in a series that includes 12 single-seat F-16C and two twin-seat F-16D Block 70 aircraft. Flight trials for this aircraft are slated to begin in November 2023, with deliveries scheduled for the second quarter of 2024.

The procurement contract for these aircraft was signed by Slovakia in December 2018. The contract, valued at EUR 1.6 billion (approximately USD 1.8 billion at the time), also includes Raytheon AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, along with training and support.

The F-16C/D Block 70/72 aircraft, also known as the F-16V (Viper) in its remanufactured form, is the latest variant of the F-16 series. It comes equipped with advanced systems such as the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a new Raytheon mission computer, the Link 16 datalink, modern cockpit displays, an enhanced electronic warfare system, and a ground-collision avoidance system.

Upon delivery, these F-16s are set to replace Slovakia's retired Russian-built MiG-29 'Fulcrum' aircraft, which have been donated to Ukraine. The new aircraft represents a technological upgrade for the Slovak Armed Forces.

The procurement marks a shift in Slovakia's defense strategy, transitioning from Russian to Western aircraft technology. This change could have implications for Slovakia's defense alliances and posture, although it is not yet clear what those implications might be.

As the Slovak Armed Forces prepare for the arrival of the new F-16s, the focus will turn to training and integration into existing operations. Further details on the delivery schedule and operational plans are still to be announced.