Recent publications in Chilean media, have reflected statements made by General Merino, FACh CiC and Defense Minister Espina towards a comprehensive update and improvement of current FACh F-16 Fleet of 10 F-16C/D Block 50 and 36 F-16 MLU.
These aircraft have significant differences since the MLU’s have been built in the 1980s for the RNLAF and have been purchased in the last decade by the FACh, right after a purchase of brand new 10 F-16 was made to Lockheed Martin. Although constantly maintained and improved, the interest by the FACh to continue and support the fleet turned to standardize it as much as possible with hope to operate the aircraft within the 2030’s.
This will turn to upgrade in phases as much of the Chilean F-16’s as possible with particular interest in integrating an Active Electronically Scanned Array fire (AESA) control. Although many defense contractors offer their equipment, only one package is commercially available and this is the upgrade to the Victor standard by Lockheed Martin. Such a standard upgrade for F-16C/D’s according to recent contracts would have a 30+ million-dollar cost per aircraft as the Moroccan contract (and Morocco is a Major Non NATO ally) has been informed by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
As for the F-16 MLU’s again will depend on the U.S. will and which will be the authorized contractor, contracts as BAE Systems’s in Taiwan and Korea and the one intended by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in Venezuela. Israel had proposed the sale of surplus F-16Ds from IDF to Croatia, but has been consistently blocked by the U.S. Government. This is the reason why Rafael is proposing their expertise on improvement of the cockpit and it’s Human Machine Interface or other specific components and not actually a full scale solution other than weapons integration.
Such a decision to heavily invest on elderly platforms its within reason considering future ability by the FACh to consistently sustain them but this also will trigger a massive replacement need within the 2030 decade, still, the FACh is considered as the most or at least one of them powerful Air Force in LatinAmerica, unchallenged by any of its neighbors. Peru is still pending on decision upon their legacy Mirage 2000 and MIG-29’s and Argentina has not yet advanced on any replacement after the Dassault Mirage III and V variants have been scrapped.