F-16 Fighting Falcons for Draken US

US-based adversarial support contractor Draken US has signed contracts to procure over 20 F-16 Fighting Falcons from The Netherlands and Norway.

According to a Norwegian Government press release on December 2, Draken US signed a contract with the Norwegian Forsvarsmateriell (Defence Material Agency) for the procurement of 12 ex Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Air Force – RNoAF) F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons. 

F-16B (MLU) Fighting Falcon in RNOAF markings, soon to be delivered to Draken US. Forsvaret

Norway is due to retire its fleet of F-16s by the end of 2021. The Forsvarsmateriell was tasked with the sale of the retiring F16 fleet back in 2019, as the expected 33 strong fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35As takes over the front-line fighter role for Norway.

In addition to the 12 aircraft, the contract agreement includes support equipment to operate the F-16s. Deliveries of the ex RNoAF F-16s to Draken US are expected as early as 2022. This delivery date depends on formal approval from both the US and Norwegian Governments.

Director General of the Forsvarsmateriell, Mette Sørfonden, said: "I am very pleased that we at the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency have secured a first agreement for the F-16s. These are among the most well-maintained combat aircraft in the world and are overall in excellent technical condition, which will provide years of solid service to Draken.” 

As well as the 12 F-16s from Norway, Draken US signed a deal with the Government of the Netherlands to add another 12 ex Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force) F-16s to its fleet.

The procurement deal with the Netherlands was announced via a Netherlands Government letter on June 29, with the contract officially signed on December 1.  

A pair of RNLAF F-16s performing a formation take-off. Netherlands MOD

In addition to the 12 Dutch F-16s procured, according to the same Government letter written by State Secretary for Defence of the Netherlands at the time, Barbara Visser: “within the contract is an option to sell another 28 F-16s to Draken US.” The further 28 F-16s would be procured when withdrawn from service at the end of 2024.

These ex RNLAF F-16s are all made available by the end life of type (ELOT) programme, because like Norway, the 5th Generation F-35A takes front line responsibility for the Netherlands.

Draken’s fleet of aircraft is not short of variety, F-16s will give the company and its prime customer, the US Department of Defense, potentially three options of supersonic aircraft to get airborne in adversary roles. The other two supersonic aircraft in Draken’s fleet are ex-Spanish Air Force Mirage F1Ms and ex-South African Atlas Cheetahs.

From its spread of US based locations, Draken operates A-4 Skyhawks, L-159 Honey Badgers, L-39s and MB339s.  

Draken F4
One of Draken's assets is a fleet of ex Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) A-4 Skyhawks. DVIDS

Draken CEO, Joe Ford stated: The inclusion of F-16s into the Draken fleet is transformational.”

Draken are not the first in the contracted red-air world to boast a fleet of F-16s, Canadian based contractor and rival company Top Aces beat Draken US to that title by purchasing 29 ex-Israeli Air Force F-16A/Bs. The company received its first F16 in January 2021. Those aircraft achieved FAA certification in May this year, so it comes as no surprise that one of the US leaders in red air is pouncing on deals to utilise the flight envelope of the F-16.