Updated at 6:35 PM EST to include information on the number of planes being upgraded.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has cleared Chile to purchase modernization upgrades for its F-16 fleet, with a potential $634 million price tag.
Chile currently operates 44 F-16s. That includes 10 Block 50 models purchased in the early 2000s, as well as 36 older models bought second-hand from the Netherlands. Reports that Chile would look to upgrade their existing F-16 fleet first emerged in 2017, but final details had not been made public. Analysts have also speculated that Chile may look to buy a small number of new F-16s to supplement its fleet.
The upgrades included in this potential sale include 19 Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS); six inert MK-82 (500LB) general purpose bomb bodies; two MXU-650KB Air Foil Groups (AFG); 44 LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI) and 49 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radios (MIDS JTRS).
Also included are avionics equipment and software upgrades, new radios, upgraded IFF transponders, secure communications equipment and other parts. The upgrades are expected to go across the 44 plane fleet.
“The proposed sale will improve Chile’s capability to meet current and future threats by modernizing its F-16 fleet, which will allow Chile to maintain sovereignty and homeland defense, increase interoperability with the United States and other partners, and deter potential adversaries,” per a statement on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
Lockheed Martin, which produces the F-16, will be the prime contractor on the deal, should it go through. All DSCA announcements must be cleared by Congress. At that point negotiations begin. Quantities and dollar values often change in the final agreement.
Although this is the first FMS case approved for Chile since the start of fiscal 2017, the F-16 has proven to be a reliable sales vehicle for Lockheed abroad, with 14 F-16 related FMS requests cleared by DSCA during this time period.
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.