US defence prime Lockheed Martin has handed over the first two F-16 Block 70 multirole fighters to Slovakia at a ceremony at its Greenville facility on 29 February, 2024, with the aircraft set to remain in the US for maintenance training.

The ceremonial delivery of the aircraft, a single-seat C-model and a two-seat D-model, is a significant milestone in the planned acquisition of 14 F-16 fighters, with the first group of aircraft anticipated to arrive in Slovakia by mid-2024. Additional aircraft are scheduled for completion in 2025.

The replacement of the Air Force’s MiG-29 fleet with Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 fighters makes military-fixed wing Slovakia’s second largest defence procurement sector, according to GlobalData’s intelligence on the Slovakian defence market

OJ Sanchez, general manager of the Integrated Fighter Group at Lockheed Martin, stated: “Slovakia is at the forefront of adopting Europe’s most advanced 4th generation fighter, the F-16 Block 70.

“With 11 more Slovak F-16s under production and testing, we are committed to delivering a total of 14 state-of-the-art jets, further solidifying our partnership.”

The F-16 Block 70 jets are equipped with the Northrop Grumman APG-83 AESA Radar, improved avionics, an extended structural service life of 12,000 hours, and critical safety features like the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS).

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Since its integration into the US Air Force in late 2014, the Auto GCAS has been recorded as contributed to saving 13 pilots across 12 F-16 incidents, according to Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin has a backlog of 133 F-16 Block 70/72 jets to be produced in Greenville, with seven total jets delivered to-date for international partners, the company stated.

In recent years, the US State Department has approved a Foreign Military Sale to the Philippines, allowing the Philippines to acquire F-16 Block 70/72 Aircraft. In a similar move, Jordan has joined the F-16 Block 70 programme by signing a Letter of Offer and Acceptance for purchasing eight new production F-16 Block 70 aircraft.

Additionally, the Royal Bahraini Air Force is set to acquire 16 F-16 Block 70 jets from the United States.

Additional reporting by Harry McNeil