Military airframer Lockheed Martin has started delivering F-16 Block 70 fighter jets to the government of Slovakia.

The NATO member and former Soviet Bloc country plans to acquire 14 of the single-engined, multi-role combat aircraft, as Bratislava transitions its air force away from Russian-origin equipment.

Lockheed announced the delivery of the first two Vipers on 10 January, calling the fighters a leap in technology for Slovakia.

“The delivery of the first two F-16 Block 70 jets to Slovakia signifies a crucial starting point in bolstering the country’s defence capabilities,” says OJ Sanchez, vice-president of Lockheed’s integrated fighter group.

Slovakia currently lacks any operational fixed-wing fighters. Bratislava donated its entire fleet of 13 retired RAC MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine in 2023.

In addition to F-16s, Washington approved the sale of 12 Bell AH-1Z attack helicopters to Slovakia following the MiG-29 transfer. The US government contributed $660 million to that $1 billion deal.

The additions will bring the Eastern European country into closer alignment with its fellow NATO members operating Western hardware.

f-16 greenville factory

Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed assembles F-16Vs at a facility in Greenville, South Carolina

“The integration of this proven platform will allow the Slovak air force to effectively safeguard its borders and partner with allies across Europe, NATO and the world,” Sanchez says of the F-16 deliveries.

The Slovakian order consists of 12 single-seat jets and a pair of twin-seat trainer aircraft. Deliveries are to continue through 2025, with a first batch of jets to arrive in the country in mid-2024, Lockheed says.

Lockheed assembles F-16s at a facility in Greenville, South Carolina. The company holds unfilled orders for 135 of the latest F-16 Block 70/72 variant, including from Bahrain, Bulgaria, Morocco and Taiwan.

The fighter manufacturer could potentially add 40 more jets to that total if a much-watched deal with Turkey goes through.

Turkey’s order is contingent on Ankara’s approval of Sweden’s bid to join NATO, currently being considered by Turkish lawmakers.