Lockheed Martin is ready to offer Ukraine the F-16 Viper, the latest version of its best-seller, to compete in the “Air Force Vision 2035” tender.
The information was unveiled during the Weapons and Security 2021 exhibition, organized in Kyiv, between June 15 and 18, 2021. The US manufacturer would offer new and used F-16s, all upgraded to the latest Block 70/72 “Viper’ standard, which features improved connectivity and an APG-83 SABR AESA radar system.
If Lockheed Martin was to compete with the F-16 Viper, the F-35 Lightning II would most likely be ruled out from the equation, despite Kyiv’s intentions. In April 2021, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Oleksandr Myronyuk considered the acquisition of the fifth-generation fighter jet. However, much like India and Indonesia before, Ukraine received the F-16V as a counter-offer.
The sale of the F-16V would have first to be approved by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in charge of Foreign Military Sales.
With all its fighter jets dating from the Soviet era, the Ukrainian Air Force is in dire need of modern equipment. During the annexation of Crimea by Russia, it even lost 45 of its MiG-29s. Thus, in May 2020, the “Air Force Vision 2035” plan was announced in order to bring it up to Western standards.
The plan includes the acquisition of a 4.5 generation multirole combat aircraft to replace the fighter fleet currently in service, composed of MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets. One MiG-29 was recently destroyed after a drunken Ukrainian Air Force officer rammed his car into the aircraft, causing a fire. With an investment of €7.5 billion, the Ukrainian authorities hope to acquire up to 40 fighters.
Rumors emerged in March 2021 that France could offer the Dassault Rafale fighter jet during an upcoming visit of President Emmanuel Macron in Ukraine. The prospect, however, has not been confirmed.