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The first F-16 Block 70 aircraft for the Slovak Republic was unveiled at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Greenville, South Carolina, on Sep. 6, 2023 during a visit from the country’s Minister of Defence, Martin Sklenár. The first Slovak Air Force Viper (tactical number 1001) will perform its maiden flight in November.
The Slovak Republic will be the first European country to receive this newest and most capable version of the Fighting Falcon. The F-16 Block 70 aircraft will deliver decades of 21st Century Security capabilities in support of the Slovak Republic’s national security.
“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, Integrated Fighter Group at Lockheed Martin, in a company news release. “This jet represents the strong partnership between Lockheed Martin, the United States, the Slovak Republic and allies.”
Slovakia, a NATO member, signed a deal in 2018 to buy 14 jets (12 single-seaters and 2 two-seaters), worth around $1.6 billion, to replace ageing Russian-made MiG-29 planes, as a part of efforts to modernise its military. The Fulcrum had been the Slovak Air Force fighter force backbone since the service’s other type, the MiG-21, was grounded 20 years ago.
Given that Slovak Air Force F-16s are not in service yet and since the service Fulcrums were grounded in September 2022 (13 former Slovak Air Force MiG-29s were then donated to Ukraine in late March / April. As a compensation for the donation the US offered 12 AH-1Z Vipers attack helicopters to the country but the offer is yet to be discussed), air policing over Slovakia is currently undertaken by Slovakia’s neighbors – Czech and Hungarian JAS-39C Gripens (airbases Čáslav and Kecskemét), Polish F-16C (Łask) and German EF-2000 Typhoons (Neuburg).
Slovak F-16 pilots will be trained at Morris Air National Guard Base (ANGB), Laughlin Air Force Base (AFB), Columbus AFB and Luke AFB flying T-6A Texan II, T-38C Talon and F-16 aircraft. It is expected that the first two F-16s will be delivered to Slovakia in Q2 of 2024; the remaining 12 aircraft will arrive in the upcoming two years.
The Vipers will be based at Sliač Air Base (AB) , home of the 81st Wing, the unit tasked to provide the nation’s air policing. However, given the reconstruction works currently underway at Sliač AB the F-16s could be temporarily stationed at Kuchyňa / Malacky AB that hosts the 46th Wing, the Slovak Air Force transport wing.
The F-16 is a strategic and valuable choice for many customers around the world seeking advanced fighter aircraft capabilities, regional and worldwide partnerships, and affordable lifecycle costs. More than 3,100 F-16s are operating today in 25 countries. The F-16 has flown an estimated 19.5 million flight hours and at least 13 million sorties. Today’s latest version, the Block 70/72, offers unparalleled capabilities and will be flown by six countries and counting.
Source: Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic
Photos: Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic and Lockheed Martin
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