ANKARA, Turkey — A batch of 35 Turkish F-16 Block 30 fighter jets will undergo structural and avionic upgrades, Turkish aerospace sources have said.
A batch of 25 aircraft will be upgraded jointly by Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries, or TAI, as well as Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-16, they noted.
The remaining 10 aircraft will be upgraded at a Turkish Air Force support and maintenance unit in Eskisehir in Central Anatolia. Deliveries of the modernized aircraft will begin in 2018 and be completed by the end of 2023, officials said.
The F-16s are the backbone of the Turkish fleet.
In 2015, the Turkish Air Force received the last of a batch of F-16 fighter jets, which underwent a comprehensive upgrade. In 2011, the Turkish and U.S. governments signed a letter of offer and acceptance for the $1.1 billion modernization of 117 Turkish Air Force F-16s to a common avionics configuration.
The upgrade created a common avionics configuration for the service's fleet of F-16 Block 40 and Block 50 aircraft. Systems integrated on Turkey's upgraded F-16s included:
- The AN/APG-69(V)9 radar installed on new F-16 advanced Block 50/52 aircraft.
- Color cockpit displays.
- The Modular Mission Computer and new avionics processors.
- The Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System.
- The Link 16 data link.
- New identification friend or foe transponders.
- AN/AVS-9 night vision goggles.
- Upgraded navigation systems.
- BAE Systems' AN/ALQ-178(V)5+ electronic warfare system, mounted internally, with radar-warning and jamming capabilities for aircraft self-protection.
The aircraft were also modified to accept new missile systems of unspecified types; some potential candidates include the AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and the MBDA Meteor.
Last year, TAI started negotiating with Pakistan to upgrade 74 Pakistani Air Force F-16 fighters. If finalized, the deal will involve upgrades on a batch of 74 Pakistani Air Force F-16 aircraft, including 14 fighters Pakistan will acquire from Jordan.
The Block 30 program will probably be the last upgrade effort involving F-16s, a Turkish military source said. The F-16s will then gradually be phased out as Turkey expects deliveries under the Joint Strike Fighter Program, while at the same time is trying to build an indigenous fighter jet on its own.
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.