Greece ready to upgrade its F-16 fleet to the Viper level

F16B52Padv0024

To keep the F-16 fleet updated, Hellenic Airforce plans for a major upgrade program including APG-83 AESA radar, link 16 and advanced IRST options

In the following month Greece will receive the response from the LoR towards Lockheed Martin for the upgrade of its F-16 fleet to the latest Viper level. The upgrade program is structured in a modular way with various options for the different block 30/50/52/52+ Adv which are currently in service with the Hellenic Airforce.

The main goal is to upgrade almost the whole fleet to a common configuration including the avionics, telecommunication equipment like Link 16 and a new APX-126 IFF interrogator, the sensors (radar and IRST pods), the compatible weapons ( HARM, JDAM, JSOW, JSM as option) while structural upgrading the airframes and repairing and overhauling current engines installed.

Due to the existence of the block 52+ and block 52+ Advanced versions which were acquired after 2000 there is a tendency to upgrade those latest Peace Xenia III and IV aircrafts to the Viper level and re-use most of the existing parts like the APG-68V9 radar and the avionics to upgrade the older fleet of blk 50 and blk 30 aircrafts.

Hellenic Airforce F-16 inventory comprise the following:

-30 x F-16 Block 52+ Advanced specially armed with AIM-120 C7 and AGM-154C JSOW (used against soft/hard land targets and surface ships). Include Conformal Tanks (CFT) for extended range. Equiped with AIM-2000 Iris-T and JHCMS helmet for high off-boresight WVR engagements. Fully Link-16 capable and thus directly communicating and exchanging data with EMB-145H Erieye AEW&C aircraft.

-55 x F-16 Block 52+ mainly armed with AIM-120 C5/7, GBU-31 JDAM, AGM -65 G2 Maverick (capable of destroying Fast Attack Craft ships and general land strike) and EP-50 Enhanced Paveway II (general strike missions). Include Conformal Tanks (CFT) for extended range. Equiped with AIM-2000 Iris-T and JHMCS helmet for high off-boresight WVR engagements. IDM modem capable exchanging information inside a COMAO of same version aircraft.

-38 x F-16 Block 50 armed with AGM-88B HARM for SEAD mission and GBU-12/24 for general Strike missions. These aircrafts lack CFT tanks and JHMCS helmets.

-32 x F-16 Block 30 armed with AIM-120B AMRAAM and GBU-12/24. These aircrafts lack CFT tanks and JHCMS helmets.

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The above loadout configurations are indicative. Latest block 52+ and 52+ Advanced are compatible with previous generation weapons like AIM-120B Amraam and GBU-10/12/16 laser guided bombs and AG-88B HARM. But the same doesn’t occur for example for equipping an F-16 Block 50 with JSOW-C stand-off weapons.

There are three possible scenarios including two upgrade version paths for the whole fleet. In all scenarios the F-16 fleet will share the same inventory of weapons (it is easier to integrate all weapons to a fleet based at least on the F-16 Block 52+ version) and will be structurally upgraded.

  1. Upgrade the total of the F-16 fleet to the F-16 Viper level. The modifications include the installation of the APG-83 AESA which gives a 30% more range, wider field of view and 25% maintenance cost reduction. Also it inherits advanced Jam-Resistant capability due to its Active Electronically Scanned Antenna which could also be used as a limited offensive jammer (not sure if this capability will be blocked by the USA due to export control reasons). Also included are a new glass cockpit with a third Central Pedestal Diplay 6X8 (CPD) which can give a better situational awareness to the pilot (this display is compatible with Sniper XR and other new IRST pods), new APX-126 IFF mode 5 interrogator, Link 16, new MMC mission computer based on COTS (thus reducing future maintenance cost), digital JHMCS helmet adding more reliability and easier maintenance, new GPS/INS navigation system and fully compatible inventory (any aircraft could use any weapon, strangely even the French Magic II WVR missiles are compatible contributing to a bigger stock available in case of long-term warfare). Total cost of this option exceeds the 2 billion dollars for a total of 155 aircraft
  2. Upgrade the whole fleet to the above Viper level but exclude the F-16 block 30 aircraft which will be upgraded to the F-16 M6 configuration retaining the equipment from F-16 Block 52+ Advanced but without Link 16. Thus this option costs around 1.4-1.6 billion dollars and it is the most probable keeping in mind the economic situation in Greece. Only 32 older Block 30 (almost 30 year old aircraft) will be correctly upgraded to the M6 configuration. These older but still capable aircraft will be mainly used for CAS/Air Interdiction, CAP and general Strike Support. There are thoughts about creating a TASMO capable F-16 M6 configuration squadron (formerly Block 30) armed with Konsberg NSM missile. Also it retains funds for an optionally IRST pods which will be analysed later.
  3. Upgrade only the 85 latest versions of the F-16 Block 52 and Block 52+ Advanced to the Viper Level and upgrade to a common M6 configuration the 70 block 50 and 30 versions. This option cost around 1.2 billion dollars and it is cheaper than the option 2. The drawback is that HAF in this option needs to support two main different versions of the F-16 fleet which leads to higher maintenance costs and bigger repair times. Also only the 85 F-16 V will be Link-16 capable and thus around 50% of the F-16 fleet will be incapable of incorporating effectively with the other version.

Add-On Options

Independently of which upgrade will be chosen, Hellenic Airforce have explicitly asked for additional add-ons (separate extra cost) which could be included in the total Viper upgrade program.

-Upgrading the existing Lantirn Targeting and Navigation Pods

Upgrade existing Lantirn pods to the ER level. This option gives 50% better reliability with 2/3 of the existing maintenance cost. Also it upgrades Lantirn’s sensors with a third generation FLIR thermal imagers, greatly enchancing strike capabilities.

-IRST pods for air-to-air combat

Acquisition of latest technologically advanced IRST pods like the Sniper XR or the Legion Pod (IRST 21) that have air-to-air combat functionalities. These pods might have the ability to effectively identify the turkish F-35s when entering the Greek Airspace. Due to the big thermal image of the F135 engine, OPFOR F-35s might be low observable in the X and S band frequency bands that most of the radars in Greek Inventory operate but not in the infrared spectrum.

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Skyward G would be an ideal option for IRST air-to-air capable system for the Greek Vipers. But an FMS Funded program led by Lockheed Martin shrinks that possibility

A fact-based analysis between a F-16 Viper and an F-35 can be found in the following link (2025: Revenge of the Sultan). Each pod costs around 1-1.5 million dollars and thus a 100-150 million dollars fund would be needed to equip for example 100 aircraft. However, using pods will greatly severe the aerodynamic behavior of the aircraft in air-to-air combat and thus is not the best option. Also it is another thing to identify the target and other to acquire precise target acquisition data. Legion and Sniper XR rely on laser designator to acquire range data. This has a limitation of no more than 40 km. Thus an F-35 launching an Amraam or a Meteor from a greater distance might be able to evade an incoming retaliation attack from the Greek Vipers.

The best option would be to include in a nose-mounted modification the IRST21 sensor or preferably the far more capable Skyward (Selex ES Skyward-G) which will equip Grippen E/F. This system is based on the PIRATE IRST of the Eurofighter but is lighter and more advanced. It also uses a passive ranging (in some bibliography can be described as kinetic ranging, comparing two distinct infrared target data in two close time-frames) algorithm thus being independent from range laser rangefinders.

Of course IRST actual performance data sheet (either Legion Pod or Skyward G) in most cases are NOT publicly disclosed. So only the high ranking officers of the Hellenic Airforce might have some in-depth understanding of the actual capabilities in air-to-air combat of the proposed IRST pods from Lockheed Martin. HAF is more interested in Legion Pod than the Sniper XR which is mainly used for strike missions and is a previous generation system. The Skyward-G (from Selex) is probably not an option through an American Lockheed Martin led upgrade program but it is noted for future reference in case Greek General Airforce Staff doesn’t implement in big numbers the proposed pods from LM.

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Legion Pod is the most possible successor for the IRST air-to-air capability. It is the latest LM product including all improvements and lessons-learned from previous Lantirn and Sniper XR

There is no official Letter of Information (from the Greek side) for the Skyward-G IRST system but we consider that inefficiencies in BVR air-to-air combat of the Legion Pod and Sniper XR will lead Hellenic Airforce to examine other options except Lockheed Martin’s products.

-TASMO: new mission for the new F-16

The goal is to include a Konsberg JSM/NSM anti-ship missile firing capability for the whole F-16 Viper fleet. This option would include a cost for compatibility and integration tests of the NSM missile along with acquisition cost of around 40-60 missiles to be used in possible TASMO missions. Considering that each missile costs around 3 million dollar a total sum of 200-300 million dollars should be expected, including the modifications in the F-16 fleet. The capability for the whole fleet to be able to use such kind of weapon might maximize HAF’s ability for massive naval strikes. Considering that any unfriendly navy in the area lacks any advanced AAW vessel, the big range of the JSM (almost 300km) and that current radar (ship based) technology has many limitations against a saturated attack of dozens of those sea-skimming missiles this option adds Access-Denial capabilities to the HAF. The advanced IIR sensor of JSM ensures immunity to radar jamming and very high resilience against IIR decoys.

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Stealthy Desing along with Sea-Skimming capabilities ensure a silent deadly apporach towards the target

Current TASMO operations are taken by 19 Mirage 2000 EGM/BGM armed with 37 AM-39 Exocet missiles. The missiles even if extremely deadly lack the range of the JSM and also the platform aircraft that operates them in less than a decade will be retired. Considering that the 25 Mirage 2000-5 Mk2 (even if upgraded to use AM-39 Exocet) has a very special role of strategic strike with the Scalp -EG missile (current inventory of 100+ missiles is enough for 4 strike missions for every aircraft). Also upgrading current fleet of Mirage 2000 requires a huge amount of money per aircraft (40-50 million dollars) compared with an average of 10-15 million dollars for the F-16 Vipers. Even when including the acquisition cost of 40 new missiles the total cost is near one third of conducting a pricey upgrade Mirage 2000 AUP program.

The creation of an F-16 Viper squadron that exchange data through the link 16 with the EMB-145 AEW & C and the P-3B AUP maritime aircraft is also considered a plus. The extended range of the JSM missile along with the bigger range of a F-16 CFT aircraft helps HAF to effectively control Eastern Mediterranean sea and relieving the burden of the year-by-year shrinking Greek Navy.

The future naval TASMO F-16 Vipers can also assure the Cypriot State that any Opposing force in the area that threatens the oil-gas reserves south of Cyprus can be dealt in short time with precision.

Conclusion

The F-16 upgrade program will benefit from the technology advancements that occurred the latest years (Legion pod, APG-83 SABR, MADL link 16, COTS mission computer) and the rapid reduction in upgrade cost per aircraft. Considering the agility of legacy F-16 aircraft along with new sensors , sensor fusion and the integration to any link 16 capable network, the new reborn Greek F-16 Vipers will be more capable and lethal than ever.

PS In the following month official detailed response to the LoR for the F-16 Viper program will be received and help Hellenic Airforce to decide which options would be included in the Viper program and what will be the final total cost.

 

9 thoughts on “Greece ready to upgrade its F-16 fleet to the Viper level

  1. HAF should know very well how many TAC hrs each airframe and engine has used and remaining TAC hrs left. Also how many TAC hrs an upgraded airframe and engine combination provides as not as thus this as could be factored in the equation decision for the AESA etc upgrades. Ideally all aircraft get upgraded and Ellas moves to stealth fighter….

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  2. Παράθεμα: Greece ready to upgrade its F-16 fleet to the Viper level – Προέλαση

  3. Unless I see it being realised, I do not believe anything. Otherwise, I believe that the homogenization of the fleet to a common level and the acquisition of a modern IR-based weaponry is a good value-for-money solution for the near term. Nevertheless, HAF ought to start seeking medium term solutions (such as multi-static radars) that would be rather effective against an F35 strike.

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  4. @Theognostos
    F-16 Block 30 fleet has a mean 5k flight hours out of 8000. It is not in bad shape. Maybe very few aircraft. If we had the money almost all of them would be upgraded. In a separate discussion in a friendly site I notice that HAF doesn’t even consider (due to integration cost) to include nose-mounted IRST sensor. They prefer ready to use pods like Legion or Open Pod (first LM, second Northorp). This choice will severe the aerodynamic behaviour of the carrying aircraft. Maybe it will still be far more agile than F-35s but not from turkish CCIP F-16s.

    @Πατε Καλα
    multi-Static radars are just a proof of concept. But even if you are able to spot an F-35 the targeting data are not sufficient to shoot them down. Of course we should fund any research in that area but still HAF general staff rejected the HEMPAS offer.

    The trend is to create VHF/HF AESA radars which are far more capable in range/resolution etc.

    Amraam has an active radar seeker for terminal phase. Patriot/S-300 use TVM guidance which relies on the sensitivity of launched missile’s sensor. X-band is used for the first case and S-band for the second one. Only in S-band F-35s rcs start to go bigger. L-band is the actual spot/no-spot frequency gap which identification of them

    Even if there is a wrong notion that F-35 is not Stealth from the side, actually it is but a bit less Stealth

    Please take a look at page 25 (polar diagram) and 27 (mean RCS front and Rear). These diagrams are created based solely on the special design of the F-35s airframe. In both cases RAM materials are not considered which could severe at least -10 dbsm the whole picture

    http://www.scienpress.com/Upload/JCM/Vol%207_1_2.pdf

    The above study was done by Panagiotis Touzopoulos, Dimitrios Boviatsis and Kon
    stantinos C. Zikidis (working in Hellenic Airforce)

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  5. Forget it guys, won’t happen. The Government will not spend 1.5 billion $$ on this. On the contrary, the defence budget may be squeezed further.

    I invite you all back to reality………..

    «We need money, oh men of Athens, and without that we can’t do anything of what is required»

    Demosthenes, 1st Olynthian Oration, 1, 16-20

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  6. @defencegreece
    * Almost always it has never been a case for insufficient funds but rather a matter of priorities and the will to create new products to secure the strength of the nation of Ellas..be it in the commercial of the military sector even though they are in actually one and the same.
    * As for as the F-16 fleet ‘ they’ will do what they want.
    * For the purpose of discussion ….one or two older F-16’s could be taken out of mainstream and be highly modified to include RCS reduction methods (inlet redesign, nozzle masking with TVC technologies, semi-conformal/ buried weapons and instrumentation, RAM Coatings, Cockpit masking, etc) along with the AESA etc program upgrades. An RCS reduction from 1.2 square meter for a clean F-16 C to a fraction of that will help. If F-16 is out of the question older F-5 could be used to learn and advance the state of the art in Ellas.

    All these programs can be done on a cost not profit or fixed profit basis so that Air Dominance is and must be maintained in the hands of Ellas.

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  7. ANABAΘMIΣH MONO ΓIA TA F-16 BLOCK 52+ ME ΣYMΠΛHΡΩMATIKH ΑΓΟΡΑ ΑΛΛΩΝ 5 ΑΠΟ Τ’ΆΜΕΡΙΚΑΝΙΚΑ ΑΠΟΘΕΜΑΤΑ., 120-150 PANTSIR-MS ΓIA ΕΝΙΣΧΥΣΗ ΤΗΣ ΑΕΡΑΜΥΝΑΣ ΤΩΝ ΝΗΣΙΩΝ. ΑΝΑΒΑΘΜΙΣΗ ΤΩΝ S-300 (RADAR + 30 ΠYΡAYΛOYS TΩΝ 250ΚΜ ΜΕ ΜΕΤΑΦΟΡΑ ΣΤΗΝ ΝΗΣΟ ΣΚΥΡΟ.

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