Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has handed over the final upgraded F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft to the Turkish Air Force during a ceremony at its facility in Ankara.

In April 2005, the Turkish and US Governments signed an initial letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) for upgrade of 163 Turkish F-16 fighter aircraft under the $1.1bn Peace Onyx III (PO-III) programme, as reported by IHS Jane’s.

With Lockheed Martin as the principal contractor, the upgrade programme focused on creation of a robust, common avionics configuration for Turkey’s fleets of F-16 Block 40 and Block 50 aircraft.

TAI upgraded 147 fighters at its Ankara facility, while the remaining 16 jets were modernised by Turkish Air Force’s 1st Air Maintenance and Supply Centre in Eskisehir in north-western Turkey.

"The Turkish and US Governments signed an initial letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) for upgrade of 163 Turkish F-16 fighter aircraft under the $1.1bn Peace Onyx III (PO-III) programme."

Turkey chief procurement official Ismail Demir was quoted by DefenseNews as saying that the modernisation programme substantially augmented the country’s air combat power.

Turkish Air Force commander-general Akin Ozturk said: "The F-16s are the backbone of our force.

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"With the upgrade programme, they feature the most advanced technology available. They give our force most efficient operational capabilities."

The Turkish configuration comprises the APG-68(V)9 multimode radar, colour cockpit displays and recorders, as well as new core avionics processors, the joint helmet-mounted cueing system, Link 16 data link, new identification-friend-or-foe transponders, AN/AVS-9 night-vision goggles, upgraded navigation systems, and the AN/ALQ-178(V)5+ electronic-warfare system.

In addition, the aircraft were modified to accept new missile systems of unspecified types, possibly the AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile, and Meteor active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.

Peace Onyx III was processed as a foreign military sales programme. It follows the Peace Onyx I and Peace Onyx II projects, which saw TAI deliver 160 new F-16s from 1980s to mid-1990s, and 80 new F-16s in late 1990s.

According to Flightglobal’s MiliCAS database, the Turkish Air Force currently has 188 F-16C and 57 F-16D fighters in its active inventory.

Image: A Turkish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Third Air Force Base Konya, Turkey. Photo: courtesy of SAC Helen Farrer RAF Mobile News Team.