The Slovak government has signed a EUR1.6 billion (USD1.8 billion) procurement contract with the US Department of Defense (DoD) for 14 Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70/72 Fighting Falcon multirole combat aircraft. The respective documents were signed by Slovakia’s Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš (Slovak National Party) and Ana Wugofski, vice-president of US company Lockheed Martin. Slovakia selected the latest version of the F-16 to replace its fleet of 12 Russian-built MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ aircraft that are becoming obsolete (only two or three aircraft are airworthy at any one time).
“We’re looking forward to strengthening our partnership with the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic,” said John Neilson, spokesperson for Lockheed Martin. “The Slovak Republic officially signed documents on the basis of which it will procure 12 single-seat fighters and two two-seater versions”, said Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini “Slovakia will stop using MiG-29 aircraft for protesting its airspace and will buy F-16 aircraft, the most up-to-date version.”
The contract includes provisions for support as well as the training of air and ground crew. Raytheon AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles are also included. The Slovak armed forces will take delivery of the first four aircraft in 2022, two of which will be two-seater variants, and the remaining 10 single-seater aircraft by December 2023. The F-16V features the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar (derived from the F-16E/F Block 60 AN/APG-80 and also known as the Scalable Agile Beam Radar [SABR]), a new Raytheon mission computer, the Link 16 datalink, modern cockpit displays, an enhanced electronic warfare system, and a ground-collision avoidance system.
Lockheed Martin has claimed the government will increase its defence capabilities by purchasing modern fighters and will also support a strategic partnership with NATO and the United States. Slovakia Air Force will be fully compatible with NATO and EU states after purchasing the fighters. The American aircraft producer will first deliver four fighter jets by 2022. In 2023, the remaining 10 will arrive. The contract also includes the training of aviation personnel and pilots, while 160 soldiers will be travelling to the USA. Though the opposition party Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) respects the government’s decision, it said that the government could also choose a cheaper and more advantageous alternative to the exchange of supersonic fighter jets