In a milestone for Slovakian defence, Lockheed Martin announced the successful flight of the first Slovakian F-16 Block 70 aircraft. 

The flight, which took place on September 29 at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Greenville, South Carolina, marked a significant moment in Slovakia’s air force capabilities.

The test pilot conducted a series of system tests during the flight to validate the aircraft’s performance and supersonic capabilities. This achievement highlights the partnership between Slovakia and Lockheed Martin, with the country poised to become the first in Europe to deploy the F-16 Block 70.

OJ Sanchez, vice president and general manager of the integrated fighter group at Lockheed Martin, emphasised the significance of this development for Slovakia. “The Slovak Air Force is taking significant steps forward with the capabilities of the F-16,” Sanchez noted. “The integration of this proven platform will allow the Slovak Air Force to effectively safeguard its borders and partner with allies across Europe, NATO, and the world.”

This maiden flight is just the beginning, as Slovakia is set to receive 14 F-16 Block 70 aircraft. The agreement for these advanced fighter jets was sealed in December 2018 when Slovakia signed the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA).

According to GlobalData’s “Slovakia Defense Market 2022-2027” report, the delivery of these aircraft has experienced minor delays, but all 14 airframes are expected to be with the Slovak Air Force by 2026. It constitutes the single largest procurement project underway for the Slovak military.

Sanchez also highlighted the broader implications of the F-16 Block 70’s success. “The F-16 Block 70 offers allies and partners advanced 21st Century Security capabilities, affordable operating and lifecycle costs, and strategic partnership opportunities,” he explained. 

“It’s a state-of-the-art fighter aircraft system that our Greenville, South Carolina, team is proud to build. The production line in Greenville is a national security asset, providing F-16 fighter capabilities to allies around the world, like Slovakia, who will rely on this platform for peacekeeping within their own borders and those of their partners.”

With six countries already opting for Block 70/72 aircraft and additional orders from Jordan and Bulgaria in the pipeline, the F-16 Block 70 programme has an official backlog of 126 jet orders.