April 29, 2009 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Chile's government has reached an agreement to buy 18 second-hand F-16 fighter planes from the Dutch government, Defense Minister Fancisco Vidal said on Tuesday, in a deal valued at $270 million.
FaCH F-16C block 50 #853 from Grupo 3 flies over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile on October 19th, 2007. The aircraft is participating in WILLKA 2007, a bilateral exercise between U.S. and Chilean Air Forces. [USAF photo by MSgt. Bill Kimble]
However, after the Netherlands
denied that an agreement had been reached, Minister of Defense Fransico Vidal admitted today that the documents have yet to be signed. The political authority reiterated however, that the purchase of the aircraft is practically a done deal.
The spokesperson for The Netherlands, Maurice Piek
, did not wish to say whether they are currently negotiating with other possible buyers and did not refer to the approximate cost of the planes.
According to the statement, six aircraft will be arriving next December, the first of a group of six deliveries which should be finished by mid 2010 and will replace the wing of ageing F-5 Tigers that have been operational since 1976.
This is not the first time Chile
purchases fighters from The Netherlands: a first contract for another 18 F-16 was signed in 2005 in a deal valued at 185 million US dollars. Those fighters had an average 3.500 flight hours.
Three years earlier, in 2002, Chile purchased ten brand-new F-16 from United States valued at 650 million US dollars. With the latest acquisition, Chile will have an air fleet of 44 F-16s.
Defense Minister Fancisco Vidal made the revelation on Tuesday. He said that the renewal of air material was in the framework of the government's policy and financial budget, to update the ageing F-5 Tigers dating back to the seventies.
"Chile is not involved in any arms race; we simply are replacing material and this was long announced", emphasized Vidal in anticipation of possible comments from neighbouring countries which are not involved in similar policies but are always fearful of Chilean resources.
"This is renovation; we are simply renovating absolutely obsolete material; what we've done along the last decade is renovate material dating back to the seventies. Chile has not increased its military hardware, we have renovated our material".
"We are talking of 18 second hand fighters refurbished in Holland which will begin arriving at the end of the year", he added.
Chile will now have three squadrons of F-16s.