On 17 January 2021, Elliniki Polemiki Aeroporia (HAF, Hellenic Air Force) Lockheed F-16C-52+ Fighting Falcon, serial 005 with markings of 335 Mira Tigris/Tigers took to the skies for the first time after its upgrade to the F-16V standard. The Viper was modified by Hellenic Aerospace Industries (HAI) at Tanagra air base (Greece).
Work on 005 started in January 2020 and it is now ready for it's certification. The 61-minute test flight of the F-16V was completed early in the afternoon and she was flown by an American pilot.
When all goes well, it is expected that the aircraft will be ferried together, supported by USAF tankers, to the USA with three USAF F-16s (Shaw AFB) that are currently at SABCA, Gosselies (Belgium).
The exact flight dates are still unknown at this point because 005 must complete 10 flight hours of testing over Tanagra AB before heading to the US. Judging from the bad weather over Greece these days this might take a while as some trials require minimum temperature of 16⁰C and the forecast predicts lower temperatures during the day.
Once certified, HAI is vetted to perform the upgrade programme. During the ferry flight to the USA, the four F-16s will be flown by American pilots, two US Air Force and two Lockheed Martin test pilots, who are in Greece at this moment. The USAF will provide refueling capabilities and the aircraft are scheduled to arrive in the USA on 5 February 2021.
Early 2020, the HAF announced the start of the modernisation programme of its extensive F-16 fleet. Greece awarded Lockheed Martin a USD 280 million contract to upgrade the air force’s fleet of F-16C-52+ and F-16D-52+ over the next seven years. These F-16s will be upgraded to the Block 70/72 Viper configuration. Among other enhancements, this includes an APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar significantly enhancing the aircraft’s ability to identify and engage enemy aircraft.
In December 2019, Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said the modernisation of 84 F-16s in the "Viper" version is expected to be completed by 2027.
Photo: @Stam_Pittas (Twitter)