Monday, April 22, 2013

Chile and Its Love Affair with the F-16 Fighter

F-16 MLU
The backbone of Chile Air Force (FACh) is the F-16, both in the Block 50 and MLU versions. The MLU jets were purchased used from the Netherlands and continue to be upgraded. All indications are that FACh is quite happy with the planes. They are equipped with cutting-edge systems such as beyond-visual-range missiles, JDAM precision bombs and mission-control software. The F-16 is also one of the cheapest high-performance jets to operate. "It costs the (U.S.) air force $23,000 per hour to operate an F-16C," Strategypage.com explains. "Other fighters are much more expensive. An F-22 costs $68,000 an hour, while an F-15C costs $42,000, and an F-15E $36,000." Could FACh buy more F-16s? There's no urgent need for more front-line fighters, even with the F-5 Tiger III squadron in semi-retirement. But Defensenews.com reported that Chile has shelved a program to acquire advanced jet trainers due to other budget priorities. Available funds, the article noted, are being shifted to the F-16 program, and a Lockheed Martin executive told the website that Chile hopes to do more upgrades on its F-16s. Of course, this means the advanced-trainer purchase is being sacrificed, at least for now. FACh wants to replaced its aged T-36 trainers with a model more adequate for F-16 pilots. Besides the T-35 Pillan basic trainer, FACh operates a dozen A-29 Super Tucanos that have some advanced electronics.

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