The Slovak Air Force’s first F-16 Block 70 fighter jet performed its maiden flight on Friday, September 29, Lockheed Martin said.
The most advanced version of the combat jet is part of an order for 14 aircraft closed in December 2018. The first F-16 had been revealed by Lockheed in early September and should be sent to Europe in the coming months.
The 14 new fighters will replace the 13 recently decommissioned MiG-29s that were transferred to Ukraine. Slovakia will be the first European country to have the updated F-16 variant.
According to Lockheed Martin, six nations selected the F-16 Block 70/72, including Jordan, which signed an agreement for 12 jets, and Bulgaria, which will receive eight more aircraft. The aircraft’s order book already totals 146 units.
“The Slovak Air Force is taking significant steps forward with the capabilities of the F-16,” said OJ Sanchez, vice president and general manager, Integrated Fighter Group, Lockheed Martin. “The integration of this proven platform will allow the Slovak Air Force to effectively safeguard its borders and partner with allies across Europe, NATO and the world.”
The Slovak F-16 was assembled at a new Lockheed Martin factory that replaced the fighter’s original facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The unit currently produces the F-35 Lightning II.
The new fighters will be allocated to the 81st Otto Smik Wing in Sliač. Slovak pilots have been able to fly the F-16 since 2021, after completing training in the USA.