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Chilean F-16 fighter jets will be upgraded to M6.6 standard

November 3, 2023 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $177m contract to provide support for the Chilean Air Force F-16 M6.6 Operational Flight Programme and Systems Upgrade.

FACh F-16BM #734 from Grupo 8 is taking off with full afterburner at Santiago IAP on September 19th, 2012. [Photo by Lukas Kinneswenger]

The contract is set to enhance the operational capabilities of the Chilean military’s F-16 fleet. Chile’s defence budget is on the rebound and is projected to reach $2.6bn by 2028.

The 31 October award was conducted via the US Department of Defense (DOD) Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. It was announced by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah and marks a step in providing Chile with the necessary support to maintain its military readiness and capabilities. The contract is scheduled for completion by November 30, 2032.

In a notable move, this contract is classified as a sole source acquisition. The work will be carried out in Fort Worth, Texas, Greenville, South Carolina, and Chile itself.

The F-16 M6.6 Operational Flight Programme and Systems Upgrade are set to introduce technology and enhancements to the Chilean F-16 fleet, ensuring its continued relevance and effectiveness globally.

The Chilean Air Force (Fuerza Aérea de Chile:FACh) operates a fleet of 44 F-16s. They procured 36 F-16AM/BM mid-life update (MLU) aircraft from the Netherlands between 2006 and 2011, in addition to 10 new-build F-16C/D Block 50s acquired from Lockheed Martin in the early 2000s. The F-16A/Bs were subsequently upgraded to M4 standard, putting their capabilities on par with the new-build models.

This significant move follows the clearance granted by the U.S. State Department in July 2020 for Chile to acquire modernization upgrades for its F-16 aircraft.

While the prospect of upgrading the existing F-16 fleet had been under consideration since 2017, detailed plans were yet to be disclosed. Additionally, analysts have speculated that Chile might also consider purchasing a limited number of new F-16s to complement its existing inventory.

The comprehensive upgrades covered under U.S.-approved prospective sale encompass an array of equipment, including 19 Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS), six inert MK-82 (500LB) general purpose bomb bodies, two MXU-650KB Air Foil Groups (AFG), 44 LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI), and 49 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radios (MIDS JTRS).

Moreover, the package incorporates avionics equipment and software enhancements, new radios, upgraded IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) transponders, secure communications equipment, and various other critical components.

Additional images:

FACh F-16C block 50 #853 from Grupo 3 approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 161st ARW on November 12th, 2010 near Natal, Brazil. [USAF photo by MSgt. Kelly M. Deitloff]

FACh F-16AM #730 from Grupo 8 is taking off at Santiago IAP on September 19th, 2012. [ photo by Lukas Kinneswenger]

FACh F-16D block 50 #858 from Grupo 3 is strolling past the lens in September of 2019. Note that those vipers are also receiving the MLU scheme instead of the checkered grey scheme they wore from the delivery. [FACh photo]