Venezuela was the first Latin-American country who got permission from the US to buy F-16s. They stayed the sole operator in Southern America untill Chile
received their new F-16s in the course of 2005.
In May 1982, the government of Venezuela signed an agreement to buy 18 block 15 F-16A's and six Block 15 F-16B's to replace the fleet of Mirage III interceptors and Mirage 5 ground-attack aircraft serving with the Fuerza Aérea Venezolana. This purchase was under the Peace Delta Foreign Military Sales program. The original intent was for an order of up to 72 aircraft, but budget restraints lowered that number to 24.
However, the Venzuelan order was not approved immediately because the US government wanted to sell Venezuela the F-16/79 (a slightly degraded F-16 version developed for export orders) instead. In 1983, the US government abandoned its hopes of selling the F-16/79, and finally approved the sale of the F100-powered F-16s to Venezuela
The FAV accepted its first aircraft in September 1983. FAV F-16s wear an attractive green/brown color scheme, with the insignia of the Aviacion de Combate (Combat Aviation) on the tail and roundels on the wings. A four-digit serial is painted on the fuselage just below the tail fin.
Of the original 24 aircraft that Venezuela bought, three have crashed: the first two, due to engine failure, and the second one, an F-16B, crashed during a maneuver on an air show at Base Aerea El Libertador, where Grupo 16 is based. In this accident, the first and second commander of the squadron where killed. The Venezuelan Air Force was looking for US government approval to replace these two aircraft and was planning to overhaul and update the remaining 22 airframes. At the end of October 1997, the US government approved the sale of the two F-16s, as well as an upgrade packet including the F-100-PW-220E. However, the purchase of the two attrition airframes has been halted until further notice.
The F-16s on the flightline at El Libertador are protected from the blazing sun by sheds. Just before take-off they are towed out and readied for flight. [Photo by Omar R. Quintero G.]
Modifications & Armament
FAV F-16s have been updated to accomodate the AIM-9L Sidewinder missile. Standard armament for air support missions is 6x Mk.82 or 2x Mk.84, 4 AIM-9L Sidewinder and one centerline drop tank. CBU's and rockets are also available in the FAV inventory. During the 1997 air show at El Libertador, a FAV F-16A fitted with the Israeli Litening pod was shown in the static display. According to a pilot, the remainder of the ordered pods was to follow shortly, together with an unspecified number of PGM's (Precision Guided Munitions), probably also of Israeli origin.
During the Miranda 98 exercise (held in Venezuela starting February 8th, with French aircraft, en-route to Red Flag 98-2), the Venezuelan Mirage 50V's and F-16s trained on daylight PGM delivery using the new Litening pods (carried only by the F-16s). This implies that at least some PGM's were already delivered by that date.
It is also indicated that the Israeli Python IV missile is to be integrated with Venzuelan F-16s with an unspecified number (reportedly around 180) already being delivered.
FAV F-16B #2337
in the 2003 "Grupo Aereo de Caza N 16 20th Anniversary" color scheme over Maracay sky. [Photo by Iván Peña Nesbit]
Early 1998, the rumor went that the FAV was looking to upgrade its F-16A/B force to F-16C/D standard. Up to now, no further details have been released.
In 2003, rumour circulated that Venezuela signed a contract with the Belgian SABCA plant to overhaul its fleet of F-16s, and upgrade them under the Falcon-Up program to extend service life. This rumour has not been confirmed yet.
Please refer to the F-16 Units
section for an overview of units.
FAV F-16s were used in combat during the military coup on November 27th, 1992 against Carlos Andres Perez (at that time President of Venezuela).