December 3, 1998 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Portugal signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LoA) on November 30, 1998, for 25 F-16 aircraft and 20 upgrade kits to modernize its air force.
The aircraft, formerly part of the U.S. 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.
The Portuguese Air Force will receive 21 F-16As and four two-seat F-16Bs, of which 20 (16 As and all the Bs) will be upgraded extensively, and the five remaining F-16As will be used to generate spares. Portugal
acquired 20 new F-16A/Bs in 1994under the Peace Atlantis program, and the new program is designated Peace Atlantis II. Total value of the Peace Atlantis II program is approximately$268 million, which includes aircraft shipment, modification kits, logistics support and training.
The second squadron of F-16s will replace a squadron of A-7Ps in the air-to-ground and maritime defense role as well as enhance Portugal's air defense capability. 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. The MLU changes include: Block 50F-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
, The Netherlands
Other upgrades to the Portuguese 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. The aircraft, which are currently in storage in the United States, will be shipped to Portugal and all modifications will be performed in country. During 2001, employees of LMTAS will modify 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 will modify 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.
The MLU kits are primarily produced by the European industrial partners on the F-16 program and accumulated and shipped from SABCA in Belgium. Currently, aircraft are being modified and fielded in all four of the participating countries. Belgium has recently signed an LoA
for an additional 18 aircraft kits. The Portuguese program will increase the total number of MLU aircraft kits worldwide to 380. Portugal is also considering incorporating selected portions of MLU on its 20 existing F-16s at some point in the future. 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 U.S. F-16s to 93aircraft. Portugal also becomes the fifth country to incorporate theF-16A/B MLU modification.