Procurement: The Turkish Fighter Fleet Grows Anon

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March 11, 2009: Turkey has bought another 30 F-16C Block 50 fighters, for over $60 million each. This will give Turkey one of the largest F-16s fleets (nearly 250) in the world. Like Israel, Turkey is upgrading its older F-16s. There are actually six major models of the F-16 currently in use, and identified by block number (32, 40, 42, 50, 52, 60), plus the Israeli F-16I, which is a major modification of the Block 52. Another special version (the Block 60), for the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is called the F-16E. The various block mods included a large variety of new components (five engines, four sets of avionics, five generations of electronic warfare gear, five radars and many other mechanical, software, cockpit and electrical mods.)  Countries like Turkey can thus add the new components and turn an older F-16 into a more powerful late model. There are also some older (Block 1, 5, 15, 20, 25, 30) aircraft out there, all with two decade old technology.

Turkey is also becoming a bigger player in the upgrade market. For example, Pakistan is having a Turkish firm to upgrade elderly Pakistani F-16s from Block 15 configuration to Block 40. Now that the U.S. has lifted its arms embargo on Pakistan, there are many firms competing for all the work needed to update older American weapons still used by Pakistan. The Turks have long had good trade relations with Pakistan, and have also developed, with the help of the U.S. and Israel, a capable aircraft maintenance and upgrade industry. Most of the F-16 work will be done in Pakistan, using Turkish engineers and technicians supervising some local workers, and using largely imported (from Turkey and elsewhere) components.

 The F-16 is the most numerous post-Cold War jet fighter, with over 4,200 built, and more in production. There are 24 nations using the F-16, and 14 have ordered more, in addition to their initial order. During The Cold War, Russia built over 10,000 MiG-21s, and the U.S over 5,000 F-4s, but since then warplane production has plummeted about 90 percent. But since the end of the Cold War, the F-16 has been popular enough to keep the production lines going. This despite the fact that the F-35 is supposed to replace the F-16. But the F-35 price keeps going up (it's headed north of $100 million per aircraft), and the F-16 continues to get the job done at half that price.

 


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