European Allies Want Used F-16s, But Are There Enough to Go Around?

By Marcus Weisgerber

June 19, 2017

LE BOURGET, FRANCE — American allies across Europe want used F-16 fighter jets, but there might not be enough planes to go around, U.S. Air Force officials say.

There’s a demand for excess F-16s out there from a lot of our European partners,” Heidi Grant, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, said Monday at the Paris Air Show, a massive military and commercial aviation event held here every other year.

First produced in 1974 by General Dynamics and built since 1993 by Lockheed and its successor Lockheed Martin, the F-16 is attractive to some NATO allies that are increasing or planning to increase defense spending and weapons purchases in the wake of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Late last year, Romania received six F-16s from Portugal under a deal approved in 2013. (The U.S. government must approve foreign sales of used F-16s flown by allies.) Last year, a State Department official suggested other Eastern European nations might work similar deals.

The deal admitted Romania to a European F-16 club that also includes The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Greece and Poland. Meanwhile, The Netherlands and Norway are buying F-35s and Denmark plans to buy them as well.

There’s interest as you see some some countries going to the F-35. They may be looking to divest of some of their F-16s and there’s partner nations out there that could [buy] those excess,” Grant said. “It’s more affordable within their defense budgets. We’re working with many countries trying to make these transactions, third-party transfers, work.”

There’s also interest in new F-16s, but “it’s mostly excess right now,” she said.

[T]he demand and interest is greater than I have ever seen,” said Grant, who has been in her Pentagon position since 2010.

Asked if there are enough F-16s out there for the demand, Grant said: “No.”

But if there’s not, not every country needs an F-16,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s military deputy for acquisition. “Sometimes we work with them to come up with other alternatives.”

Lockheed is planning to move its F-16 production line from Fort Worth, Texas, to Greenville, South Carolina, freeing up space to build F-35s.

By Marcus Weisgerber // Marcus Weisgerber is the global business editor for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of Inside the Air Force. He has reported from Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, and often travels with the defense secretary and other senior military officials.

June 19, 2017