In a bid to modernise its ageing fleet of fixed-wing combat aircraft, representatives from the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) Command have inked a deal to buy at least 12 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcons from the US.
The new contract – which is an amendment to the original agreement to purchase the F-16 Block 70 – was inked on January 19 by Brig Gen Pilot Muhammad Fathi Hiyasat, commander of the RJAF, and Rohit Nepal, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Jordan. This latest contract cements Jordan’s plan to acquire the F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcon, with 12 examples of the latest variant of the multi-role fighter family set to be delivered to the RJAF during the first phase of the project.
In a statement, the RJAF said: “This agreement comes within the framework of strengthening the defence capabilities and military deterrence of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, increasing the level of combat readiness and joint operations with the friendly American side, in addition to strengthening the frameworks of joint cooperation between the two countries, and supporting joint efforts in combating terrorism and enhancing stability in the region.”
This move comes after the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced on February 3, 2022, that US State Department approval had been given for the sale of 12 F-16C Block 70s and four F-16D Block 70s to Jordan for an estimated cost of $4.21bn. The deal also included 21 GE Aviation F100-GE-129D or Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229EEP afterburning turbofan engines, along with 21 AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) Scalable Agile Beam Radars (SABR) and six Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATPs).
In addition, components for a variety of munitions, such as the 2,000lb GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), 500lb GBU-54 Laser JDAM and 2,000lb GBU-10 Paveway II laser-guided bombs were also included in the approved package. The deal also included an unspecified number of Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System II (JHMCS II) or Scorpion Hybrid Optical-based Inertial Tracker (HObIT) helmet-mounted displays (HMDs) and AN/ALQ-254 Viper Shield (or equivalent) electronic warfare systems; however, it remains unclear which of these systems have been selected for use on the RJAF’s future F-16 Block 70 fleet.
After gaining State Department approval, the number of F-16 Block 70s that Jordan sought to purchase was reduced to eight – as was outlined in a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) that was signed by Maj Gen Yousef Al-Hnaity, commander-in-chief of the Jordanian Armed Forces, and Brig Gen Pilot Hiyasat on June 17, 2022. With this latest contract, it is apparent that Jordan now intends to buy the 12 F-16 Block 70s that were initially approved for sale by the US State Department last year. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2027.
The RJAF is no stranger when it comes to operating the Fighting Falcon, given that the Jordanian air arm has employed second-hand examples of the type since 1998. The first batch of former US Air Force (USAF) F-16A/B-15 ADF Fighting Falcons – comprising 12 single-seat F-16A-15 ADFs and four two-seat F-16B-15 ADFs – were delivered to the RJAF between December 1997 and February 1998 under the Peace Falcon I programme. The fleet was bolstered in 2003, when 17 more ex-USAF Fighting Falcons (16 F-16A-15 ADFs and a single F-16B-15 ADF) were delivered to the RJAF as part of the Peace Falcon II programme.
In September 2008, Jordan received its first F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons. The nation purchased 16 second-hand examples – comprising 12 single-seat F-16AMs and four F-16BMs – from the Belgian Air Force, with deliveries taking place in September 2008 (two F-16AMs and two F-16BMs), November 2008 (two F-16AMs and two F-16BMs) and March 2009 (eight F-16AMs). A further six F-16AMs and three F-16BMs were acquired from Belgium in 2009, with the aircraft being delivered in July 2011.
The 17 F-16A/B-15 ADFs delivered under the Peace Falcon II programme were subsequently upgraded to F-16AM/BM-standard by Turkish Aerospace Industries in a process that began in 2007 and was concluded by 2011. On June 19, 2013, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) sold 13 F-16AMs and two F-16BMs to the RJAF after they had been deemed surplus to requirements. The first six aircraft (five F-16AMs and one F-16BM) were delivered to Jordan in October 2017, followed by six more (five F-16AMs and one F-16BM) the following month and the remaining three F-16AMs in December, that year.
Of the 47 F-16AMs and 15 F-16BMs delivered to the RJAF, approximately 26 AMs and 14 BMs remain operational with the RJAF’s No 1, 2 and 6 Squadrons at Al Azraq-Shaheed Muwaffaq Air Base. In total, seven F-16AMs have been lost to attrition – with a further 14 examples being stored – while one F-16BM is thought to have been lost to attrition. It is believed that the RJAF withdrew its F-16A/B-15 ADF fleet from use in 2015 and offered for sale in January and December 2016. Pakistan acquired 13 of these third-hand aircraft.