Lockheed Martin announced on January 10 that it had successfully delivered its first two F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcon fighters to the Slovak Air Force at its production facility in Greenville, South Carolina.
The handover marked a major milestone for the Slovak Air Force, which is set to become the first European operator of the Block 70-configured Fighting Falcon. Slovakia initially agreed to acquire the F-16C/D Block 70 in December 2018, when it inked a contract (worth $1.8bn) with Lockheed Martin for the supply of 14 aircraft – comprising 12 single-seat F-16C Block 70 fighters and two dual-seat F-16D Block 70 fighter-trainers – to the Slovak Air Force. While Lockheed Martin has formally handed over the first two F-16 Block 70s to Slovakia, the fighters will remain in the US until mid-2024, when the first group of jets are expected to arrive in Slovakia. All 14 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to Slovakia by the end of 2025.
Commenting on this delivery, OJ Sanchez – vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Integrated Fighter Group – said: “The delivery of the first two F-16 Block 70 jets to Slovakia signifies a crucial starting point in bolstering the country’s defence capabilities… 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. We stand committed to our mission of advancing 21st Century security through cost-effective operations and strategic partnerships, ensuring the safety and well-being of US allies.”
Lockheed Martin’s current order backlog for the F-16 Block 70 now stands at 135 jets, but this is set to increase to 143 once an agreement on Bulgaria’s acquisition of eight more Block 70-configured ‘Vipers’ has been finalized – growing the number of aircraft ordered by the nation to 16. Bulgaria is set to become the second European nation to operate the F-16 Block 70, with the first seven aircraft now in various stages of production at Lockheed Martin’s Greenville facility. The first of these jets is expected to complete its maiden flight later this year, with deliveries of the type expected to begin in 2025.