F-16s Ordered for Slovakia; Bulgarian Buy Reinstated

 - August 1, 2019, 11:46 AM
An F-16V impression depicts an aircraft with Slovak national insignia armed with eight AIM-120 AMRAAMs and AIM-9X Sidewinders. (graphic: Lockheed Martin)

On July 31, the U.S. government awarded a contract worth just under $800 million to Lockheed Martin for the production of 14 F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft (marketed as F-16V) for the Slovak Republic. The deal is a Foreign Military Sales program managed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. Slovakia signed for the aircraft in December.

The aircraft will be built at the new F-16 assembly location at Greenville, South Carolina, and all are due to be delivered by January 31, 2024. The contract, which was given congressional approval in April 2018, also includes support elements for the fleet. Earlier this month, the Slovak government announced that it intended to sign a new maintenance contract with RSK-MiG to keep the current fleet of MiG-29s serviceable until the F-16s enter service.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria has once again confirmed its intention to proceed with the acquisition of six F-16C Block 70 single-seaters and two F-16D Block 70 two-seaters. The selection and purchase were agreed by the government in January, and the potential Foreign Military Sale was approved by the U.S. State Department on May 30.

An initial contract was signed by parliament in early July, but was subsequently vetoed by President Ruman Radev on July 23, citing a lack of “national consensus.” Within a few days, the parliament’s defense committee overturned the presidential veto and the procurement was resubmitted to the assembly. If the sale proceeds without any further delay, the Bulgarian air force will receive four F-16s in 2023 and four in 2024. As in Slovakia, they will replace aging MiG-29s in the air-defense role.