Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, has offered Ukraine a new F-16 Block 70/72 multirole combat aircraft as it looks to modernize its air force.
The Ukrainian Air Force is in urgent need of an upgrade. Ukraine’s public debate over how to revive the UAF has reached a consensus that Western-built jets armed with modern smart munitions are needed, along with Western air defense capabilities.
Ukraine’s best air force assets at present are two under-strength fighter brigades of around fifty Su-27 FLANKERs, equivalent to the US F-15C. Around thirty are believed to be operational. Its next best asset is a fighter brigade of smart munition-capable Su-24 FENCERs, the “Soviet F-111” and workhorse of Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria. At best, around thirty of these planes are currently believed to be operational.
The largest fighter assets Ukraine has are three under-strength fighter brigades of around 80 MiG-29 FULCRUMs, equivalent to the US F-16. Finally, one brigade of the Su-25 FROGFOOT or “Soviet Warthog” is employed for ground attack
Ukraine wanted to buy new or used fighter jets to replace the fleet of aging Soviet-made aircraft. Ukrainian Air Force currently has a fleet of Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker interceptors and MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft.
According to Lockheed Martin, the company can provide Ukraine with new fighters or modernize secondhand combat aircraft.
As noted by the company, the F-16 is the world’s most successful, combat-proven 4th generation fighter. To date, 4,588 F-16s have been produced and there are approximately 3,000 operational F-16s are in service today in 25 countries.
In concert with the U.S. Air Force and multiple F-16 Foreign Military Sales customers, Lockheed Martin has certified more than 3,300 carriage and release configurations for greater that 180 weapon and store types. The company’s experience as a weapon integrator has enabled the F-16 to be one of the most versatile multirole fighters ever.
The five nations have chosen the newest F-16 Block 70/72 version for these reasons and more. Block 70/72 F-16 production began in Greenville, South Carolina, on Nov. 11, 2019. The Greenville production start coincides with the significant, growing demand for new production F-16s around the globe.
New-production F-16s include advanced capabilities, such as the APG-83 AESA Rradar, modernized cockpit with new safety features, advanced weapons, conformal fuel tanks, an improved performance engine, and an industry-leading extended structural service life of 12,000 hours. But most importantly, new F-16s also include the proven, life-saving Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS), which ensures pilots come home safe.
The company also offers a package of modernization of secondhand fighters, in order to bring their combat capabilities to Block 70/72 configuration.