The Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa) operates a total of 45 F-16A/B block 15 aircraft. Twenty of these have been upgraded to MLU standard.
Peace Atlantis I
The Forç Aérea Portuguesa entered the F-16 era when the Peace Atlantis I program was started with the signature of a Letter of Acceptance in August 1990. The agreement was partly a payment for the use (by the US) of Lajes AB on the Azores. It included not only the 20 F-16 block 15OCU aircraft (17 A's and 3 B's) with PW engines, but also initial logistic support: replacement parts, support equipment, books, pilot and maintenance personnel instruction, participation of the PAF in the F-16 Technical Coordination Group , F-16 Aircraft Structural Integrity Program, F100 International Engine Management, EWSIP-Electronic Warfare Systems Improvement Program ,etc.
The aircraft were new-built to Block 15OCU standard, which makes them almost identical to the F-16 ADF (Air Defense Fighter). In fact, the only thing that distinguishes them from the ADF are the AIFF (advanced IFF) antennas or bird-slicers in front of the canopy. As a result, the aircraft have the identification light on the port side of the nose, and feature large bulges on the tail fin root which house the actuators for the tail planes (the actuators were relocated to make room for the installation of HF equipment and antenna). The B-models lack the HF antenna and thus the consequent large bulges. The aircraft configuration is almost standard but received some improvements, most notably the Ring Laser Gyro, the Wide-Angle HUD, Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220E engine with DEEC and provisions for the use of the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The acceptance ceremony for the first 2 aircraft was held on February 18th, 1994, and the first 4 aircraft were delivered on July 18th in the same year.
PoAF F-16A #15117
, armed with four AIM-9
Sidewinders, refueling from a USAF tanker [USAF photo]
Peace Atlantis II
In 1996 the Portuguese AF requested 25 USAF-surplus F-16A/B's (re-engined), together with 5 spare F100-PW-220E engines. The estimated cost is $258 million. The second-hand Block 15 aircraft are to be used in the ground attack role (replacing the 50 A-7P's) starting in 1998.
On November 20th, 1997, the Pentagon announced it had made available for transfer 25 used F-16A/B Block 15 Falcons from the USAF (ex-ANG or stored D.M. examples). The aircraft are transferred free of charge (Portugal has to bring them to Europe, either by disassembly or flown-in by PoAF pilots). It appears that Portugal also has to buy new engines and spares.
On November 14th, 1998, the Portuguese government gave the FAP the go-ahead for the acquisition. The contract includes 25 (21 A's and 4 B's) used aircraft, which will be re-engined (probably with the F100-PW-220E). Of these only 20 (16A's and 4 B's) will be used to form an attack squadron. The five other airframes will be used as spare sources. According to the newspapers the 20 aircraft will be upgraded for day & night all-weather operations. Total value of the deal is 45.000 million PTE (some USD 268 million) which includes aircraft shipment, modification kits, logistics support and training and is to be paid for in parts until 2004 . Portugal signed the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LoA) on November 30th, 1998, for 25 F-16 aircraft and 20 upgrade kits to modernize its air force.
The aircraft, formerly part of the US Air Force inventory, are being transferred to the NATO ally as Excess Defense Articles under the Southern Regional Amendment to the Arms Export and Control Act. They are currently in storage in the United States and will be shipped to Portugal and all modifications will be performed in country. During 2001, employees of LMTAS modified the first two aircraft in a Lead-the-Fleet program, with Portuguese Air Force technicians observing. LMTAS and USAF will assist the Portuguese Air Force in establishing a major modification capability on the F-16, and the Portuguese personnel have modified the remaining 18 aircraft. The modification line will be able to handle up to four aircraft at a time. The last aircraft is scheduled for completion in 2003.
Portugal becomes the 15th country using F-16s to obtain additional quantities of the aircraft. It will be the fourth country to operate former USAF F-16A/B aircraft bringing the total of transferred US F-16s to 93 aircraft. Portugal also becomes the fifth country to incorporate the F-16A/B MLU modification (See Modifications and Armament).
|Peace Atlantis I
|Peace Atlantis II
Modifications & Armament
On November 12th, 1997, The Pentagon announced that Portugal will upgrade 20 of its Peace Atlantis II F-16 block 15 aircraft to MLU-standard with modification kits bought from Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems in Fort Worth. The deal is worth about $185 million to Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon said. The sale would also include support equipment, training, technical assistance and spare parts. The kits are assembled largely with equipment acquired from other manufacturers in the United States and Europe, but Lockheed Martin manages the program from Fort Worth.
The MLU kits are primarily produced by the European industrial partners on the F-16 program and accumulated and shipped from SABCA, Belgium. Currently, aircraft are being modified and fielded in all four of the participating countries. Belgium has recently signed an LOA for 18 additional aircraft kits. The Portuguese program will increase the total number of MLU aircraft kits worldwide to 380.
The MLU changes include: block 50 F-16C/D-style cockpit with color multifunction displays, modular mission computer, APG-66(V)2 radar update, digital terrain system, Global Positioning System, advanced identification friend or foe, Improved Data Modem data link, electronic warfare management system, plus provisions for a reconnaissance pod and a helmet-mounted display. These modifications will result in the Portuguese Air Force having a configuration common with the other western European NATO F-16A/B users that participate in the MLU program -- Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands and Norway.
The first PoAF F-16A MLU, #15133
, in a low level flyby [Mais Alto Magazine photo]
The Peace Atlantis II F-16s will be refurbished and receive three major modifications: the Falcon UP structural upgrade, the F100-PW-220E engine upgrade and the F-16A/B Mid-Life update (MLU) avionics and cockpit upgrade.
Other upgrades to the Peace Atlantis II aircraft include a night identification light, dedicated electronic warfare MUX bus, additional chaff/flare dispensers, plus provisions for an internal missile warning system and a flight analyzer/air combat evaluation/voice and data recorder.
Armament and Stores
The Portuguese F-16s have probably retained their Sparrow capability, and examples have been seen carrying the Sparrow launcher rails. The Sparrows are supposedly AIM-7F models. Main air-to-air armament of the PoAF F-16s consists of AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. The PoAF has purchased a number of AGM-65 Maverick missiles
Together with the introduction of the MLU upgrade, the FAP will also introduce new weapon systems to use with these upgraded aircraft. The Portuguese AF is considering the AIM-120 AMRAAM, JDAM, JSOW, and Rafael Litening II pods. The AIM-120 missiles were already purchased in 2004.
FAP F-16s use the AN/ALQ-131 ECM pods originally bought for the A-7P force.
Portuguese three-ship F-16 formation, including F-16A #15106
armed with an TGM-65 inert missile [PoAF photo]
Please refer to the F-16 Units
section for an overview of units.
Aviano AB, Italy, 1999
During operation 'Allied Force' in 1999, the PoAF deployed 3 F-16s to Aviano AB in Italy, where they joined US F-16s. Because the aircraft were not yet updated to MLU standards, the aircraft mainly performed CAP missions and escorted offensive aircraft over Yugoslavian territory.