Feb. 8 (UPI) — Greece’s first F-16V fighter plane is on its way to Texas for final tests after upgrades, the Greek defense ministry announced.
The Lockheed Martin-built plane, known as the Viper and one of 84 to be improved for the Hellenic air force, was delivered in 2009 as an F-16C, and was modified to F-16V standards at the Hellenic Aerospace Industry’s Tangara facility.
It is the first plane to undergo the variation under a $1.5 billion agreement in 2017 between Greece and the United States.
The plane now has a new Pratt & Whitney engine, as well as a Northrop Grumman Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a sensor with an active electronically scanned array, according to officials.
Other modifications include a new mission computer, an automatic ground collision avoidance system, enhanced electronic warfare capabilities, Link 16 datalink and an advanced identification friend or foe interrogator system.
The cockpit also includes a new center pedestal display, compatible with the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System.
After its first, 61-minute test flight in January, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Greece’s defense minister, called it an “absolute success,” adding that the upgrade program “continues at an intensive pace.” The aircraft then flew to a U.S. Air Force base in Belgium.
Wearing USAF designation for legal reasons, and technically in the fleet of the U.S. Air Force, the plane is scheduled to fly to Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, on Wednesday. The remaining 83 F-16s are scheduled to be modified by 2027.
The upgrades are a part of an effort by Greece to modernize its air force after provocations by neighboring Turkey, which is challenging security in the region through oil and gas exploration in the contested Aegean Sea.
Greece and Turkey have each deployed naval and air forces to assert competing claims.
Turkey’s recent actions have caused concern among its neighbors, as well as from NATO.
It has crossed into Greek airspace, disobeyed arms sanctions against Libya and purchased the Russian-made S-400 air defense system in recent years as directed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Greece has also announced the acquisition of 18 new and old variant Rafale fighter planes, and the lease of two state-of-the-art Navy frigates, from France.
Additionally, the Greek Air Force announced in January that it will get a training program and 10 aircraft from Israel in a $1.68 billion contract.