WASHINGTON ― Slovakia has decided to purchase 14 new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters to replace its Russian made MiG-29 jets.
The Slovakian Defence Ministry’s announcement Wednesday means the F-16 has beat out the Saab Gripen.
In a statement on the ministry’s website, Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš said the U.S. jets were selected because they are “state-of-the-art modern machines,” and the ministry statement said the U.S. planes were cheaper according to an analysis done through 2040.
However, the ministry did not put a final price tag on the F-16 purchase, but Reuters reported that the dollar figure could be €1.1 billion (U.S. $1.3 billion) for the 14 jets.
“We are pleased Slovakia has selected the F-16 Block 70,” Lockheed spokesman John Losinger said. “This partnership will deliver new capabilities to the Slovak Armed Forces and strengthen Slovakia’s strategic partnership with NATO and the U.S.”
In April, the U.S. State Department OK’d the potential sale of 14 Block 70/72 F-16Vs for Slovakia, indicating the process for getting those planes on contract should be fairly smooth.
Slovakia’s choice of the U.S. jet over its Swedish counterpart is notable in a regional context, as two of its closest neighbors ― Hungary and the Czech Republic ― operate the Gripen. Poland, however, operates the F-16, as do a number of other NATO nations.
Lockheed’s sale of the F-16 to Slovakia is the second order since the company made the decision to move its production line from Fort Worth, Texas, to Greenville, South Carolina.
The Slovakian sale, coupled with the Bahrain deal cemented last month, will help Lockheed keep production of the F-16 going while its biggest potential customer, India, figures out what it wants out of a future fighter.
Lockheed has proposed moving the entire F-16 line to India in exchange for a large order, but India seems to be taking its time, having released a request for information to a handful of defense aviation companies in April.
Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this report.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.