The first two F-16 type fighters upgraded to the “Viper” standard in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) were delivered to the Hellenic Air Force. At the Greek Aerospace Industries (EAB) facility in Tanagra, the delivery of the first two aircraft, upgraded from the F-16 Block 52+ Fighting Falcon model to the F-16V Block 70/72 configuration was carried out with an official ceremony. The ceremony was attended by Minister of Defense Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Deputy Minister of Defense Nikos Hardalias, Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff Konstantinos Floros, Minister of Finance Christos Staikouras, Minister of Development Adonis Georgiadis, United States Ambassador to Greece George Tsunis and representatives from EAB.
Speaking at the opening of the ceremony, Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos said: “this day marks one more milestone in the longstanding and glorious history of the Hellenic Air Force, since the first two Greek F-16 Viper fighters are integrated into its firepower, and along with their features and their advanced electronics, they will contribute to the further enhancement of the Armed Forces’ combat power and overall deterring capability.” According to Panagiotopoulos, who stated that the upgraded F-16 aircraft would soon be ready for duty, “I am certain that the professionalism and the high sense of duty of the personnel to staff the first F-16 “Viper” Squadron will soon render it operational so that the new fighters will be able to fly over every inch of our country, to cover Greece, the Aegean Sea, and the territory with their wings and weapons – as I like to say – thus decisively defending our national sovereignty and sovereign rights against any would-be opponent.”
United States Ambassador to Greece George Tsunis said that Greece’s “F-16 Vipers will immediately enhance NATO’s interoperability with fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft, ensuring that our alliance can defend our security interests”. He also noted that he was “looking forward to the modernization of the remaining F-16V aircraft and their return to the skies as Europe’s most advanced F-16 fleet”.
Greece made the decision to upgrade 85 of the Hellenic Air Force’s F-16 Block 52+ Fighting Falcon aircraft to the F-16 Block 72 configuration as part of the agreement signed with the United States in 2017. When the Greek Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) unanimously approved the modernization of 85 F-16s in 2018, the $2.4 billion program was formally launched. Engineering efforts for the registration of prototypes and systems took up the first two years of the program. Installations on Greek combat aircraft started in the third year of the program. The first of 85 Greek F-16 fighters upgraded to the F-16V Viper standard took flight on January 17, 2021. Hellenic Air Force pilots started receiving training in the fourth year of the program.
Northrop Grumman’s (AESA) AN / APG-83 radar, which is referred to as a “fifth generation radar,” is one of the primary systems updated under the Viper modernization Program. The radar enables high resolution mapping on large terrain and simultaneously tracks several air and ground targets, enabling the employment of new generation advanced weapons. Additionally, the F-16 Block 70/72 features a 6 x 8 Center Pedestal Display (CPD), an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (GCAS), and more modern weapon stations that allow for more efficient use of AESA radar and handling of targeting pod data. The aforementioned aircraft can utilize AGM-154C JSOW, GBU-31/38 JDAM, GBU-50 EGBU (EP-II), GBU-16 PW II, and BRU-57 ammunition and missile systems with modernization, and they can also use Sniper EX targeting pods or DB-110 reconnaissance pods. Furthermore, for the first time, F-16 aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force will have a modern data link thanks to the integration of the Link-16 data link system.
The modernization of six more F-16s will be finished by Lockheed Martin and delivered to the Hellenic Air Force by the end of the year, according to Greek media. The business estimates that it won’t be finished modernizing all aircraft until 2027. All 24 Rafale fighter jets that Greece purchased from France will have been delivered, however, Greece, which has officially submitted a letter of request to buy F-35s from the US, is clearly moving to modernise its aviation and wider military capabilities, potentially signalling a shift in the balance of power in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.