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Chile to increase F-16 fleet to 44

October 11, 2008 (by Asif Shamim) - Chile is interested in purchasing another batch of refurbished F-16s from The Netherlands, according to Defense officials.

The additional F-16s would replace the ageing F-5 Tigers to be decommissioned next year.

Chile currently has 28 F-16s, of which ten are Block 50s purchased brand new in 2002 at a total cost of $660 million US dollars as part of the free trade agreement signed with the United States.

Three years later the Fuerza Aérea de Chile (FACh) added 18 F16 MLU A/Bs from the Dutch Air Force (RNlAF) costing $180 million US dollars. These replaced ageing Mirage 5 Elkan and Mirage 50/Panthers in the FACh fleet.

This second batch of 16 F-16s MLUs, including spares and support equipment, would cost 170 million US dollars and would be delivered in 2009. When all are delivered Chile's Air Force will have 44 F-16s, one of the strongest and most modern fleets on the South-American continent.

The new planes would be stationed in the Southern part of the country, however this moved has been met with criticism from members of congress who deem this as a possible unfriendly act to there neighbors Argentina.

The fund for military equipment purchases in Chile is financed with a percentage of copper windfall earnings and supported by legislation dating back to the Pinochet years. The bill is to be amended following a political agreement reached in Congress to review legislation inherited from the military regime and considered non democratic.

Military affairs analysts estimate the fund currently has 2.9 billion US dollars and is expected to increase in the coming months.

Additional images:

FACh F-16AM #726 from Grupo 8 is spotted strolling past the lens at Santiago AB on April 7th, 2008. [Photo by Andres Contador]

FACh F-16 swirl