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U.S. approves advanced upgrade for Turkish F-16s

September 23, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Bush administration has approved a Turkish request for an advanced upgrade package for the F-16 fleet, including the most modern air-to-air missile in the U.S. military inventory.

A Turkish F-16C is thundering down the runway right before take off. Note the visible air in the intake. [Photo by Emin Fýndýklý]

Officials said the Defense Department has endorsed a Turkish program that would ensure capabilities similar to the advanced F-16s in the U.S. Air Force. The program would modernize at least 117 F-16s in the Turkish Air Force, with an option for the upgrade of another 100 platforms. The F-16 modernization program would encompass block 40 and 50 aircraft.

In September, the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of two Turkish requests for advanced subsystems and weapons for the F-16 upgrade. Officials said Turkey has pledged to limit the use of the modernized F-16 fleet to defensive operations.

"The modernization of the F-16 aircraft will be provided in accordance with, and subject to the limitation on use and transfer provided under, the Arms Export Control Act, as amended, as embodied in the Letter of Offer and Acceptance," the agency said in a Sept. 8 statement. "This proposed sale will not adversely affect either the military balance in the region or U.S. efforts to encourage a negotiated settlement of the Cyprus questions."

The upgrade will create a common avionics configuration for the service's fleet of F-16 block 40 and 50 aircraft. More than 200 F-16 aircraft comprise the backbone of Turkey's current fighter fleet. Systems to be integrated on Turkey's upgraded F-16s include the AN/APG-69(V)9 radar that is currently being installed on new F-16 advanced block 50/52 aircraft, upgraded navigation systems and BAE Systems' AN/ALQ-178(V)5+ electronic-warfare (EW) system, mounted internally, with radar warning and jamming capabilities for aircraft self-protection.

The aircraft will also be modified to be able to carry missile systems of unspecified types. Some potential candidates include the AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM and MBDA Meteor.