The upgrade program for the oldest model of F-16 fighters is designed as a stop-gap solution until Turkey has built its own indigenous fighter jet or the initial deliveries under the multinational Joint Strike Fighter program have begun to arrive.
The Block 30 aircraft to be upgraded were delivered to the Turkish Air Force between 1988 and 1990. Most of the aircraft are about to complete their flight life of 8,000 hours.
The program is being administered by the procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), will be planned by Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries and carried out at an Air Force repair and maintenance center.
Officials say most of the upgrade work will involve structural and body improvements.
Turkey hopes its indigenous fighter will make its maiden flight in 2023.
Turkey also is a partner in the JSF consortium that builds the new-generation fighter F-35. Turkey plans to buy at least 100 F-35s.
Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.