The F-16s who were to be delivered to this squadron had already been in Portuguese hands from 1999 onwards. They were bought under the Peace Atlantis II program and first had to go through the MLU program before being delivered to a newly formed squadron, which eventually became Esq. 301. The delivery of the upgraded F-16s has been seriously delayed over the past years. The contract was already signed in 1997, even before the aircraft were delivered from the USAF stocks. Up until 2008, only nine aircraft were redelivered to the squadron with the MLU package installed.
With the introduction of the MLU F-16, a new set of weapons was acquired to be used with them. This greatly enhanced the PoAF’s capability to achieve a full day and night fighter capability.
Back in 1997, only 20 upgrade kits were ordered for an F-16 fleet counting 40 airframes. All MLU F-16s will be delivered to Esq. 301, while its sister squadron – Esq. 201 – will keep the non-upgraded vipers. Rumors have gone around that Portugal intends to sell its non-MLU F-16s. If and when this sale will go through is still highly uncertain. The impact it will have on the composition of the Portuguese F-16 squadrons is also still a vague mystery.
PoAF F-16AM #15133
from Esq 301 seen taking off from Los Llanos AB, Albacete during the NATO
Tiger Meet adorned with the 2006 paint scheme on September 28th, 2006. [Photo by Karl Drage