Greece Plans to Spend Billions Upgrading Its F-16 Fighter Jet Fleet

The United States has approved the possible sale of more than 120 upgrade kits from Lockheed Martin to the Greeks for their F-16 fighter jet fleet. The deal, worth more than $2 billion, highlights the continued importance of advanced 4th generation fighter jets, especially for countries such as Greece that don’t necessarily have the need for or the resources to procure expensive, stealthy 5th generation aircraft.

The announcement came on Oct. 17, 2017, as U.S. President Donald Trump met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Washington, D.C. Trump, who has repeatedly criticized NATO countries for not meeting the alliance's defense budget targets, applauded Greece for meeting the goal of each member spending two percent of their gross domestic product on their military and highlighted the F-16 upgrade plans. “They're upgrading their fleets of airplanes – the F-16 plane, which is a terrific plane,” Trump said ahead of a bilateral meeting. “They're doing big upgrades.”

According to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the complete package includes the necessary components to bring 123 of Greece’s existing F-16C and D fighter jets up to Lockheed Martin’s new F-16V standard, which the company first introduced in 2012. The updates include, among other things, new mission computers, navigation systems, multifunction displays, Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) transponders, and the Link-16 tactical data link.

By far, though the most important upgrade is the replacement of the existing jets’ mechanically scanned radars with the AN/APG-83 active electronically-scanned array type radars, also known as the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). Faster scanning, even interlaced air and ground modes, and able to more accurately detect targets at longer ranges and smaller aerial targets flying at low altitude, the AESA unit is a cost-effective way to get more capability out of the older F-16Cs all by itself. The United States itself has recognized this and in June 2017, radar’s manufacturer Northrop Grumman announced it had gotten a contract to upgrade 72 Air National Guard F-16Cs with the new unit.

“AESA radar upgrades are critically important to give the F-16 community, the tactical advantage it deserves, and we are honored to provide this differentiating technology for the safety and mission effectiveness of our warfighters,” Bob Gough, the Vice President of Northrop Grumman’s Combat Avionics Systems division, said at the time. “The APG-83 SABR system is in full rate production and available now for U.S. and international F-16 upgrades.”

With 123 kits, the Greeks will be able to upgrade all 115 of their single seat F-16C fighters – a mix Block 30, Block 50, Block 52+, and Block 52+ Advanced aircraft, the latest versions featuring conformal fuel tanks among other improvements – to a single uniform configuration, as well as bring a number of their 40 two seat F-16D trainers up to the new standard. The full package would include two spare SABRs, 26 of Raytheon’s Advanced Self-Protection Integrated Suite (ASPIS) II electronic warfare systems for jets that haven’t yet received that upgrade, and a host of other spare parts and support services.

The total estimated value is of the purchase is just more than $2.4 billion. If Greece goes ahead with the deal, it would be the third country to purchase the F-16V package. Taiwan was the first to choose to upgrade its older F-16A/B jets to the new configuration in 2015, after it became apparent the United States would not approve the sale of all-new fighters for political reasons. The actual work began in January 2017.


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