With a high degree of probability, the used F-16 multipurpose fighters will strengthen Ukraine’s Air Force in the short term. And the most likely are the machines from the Netherlands and Denmark aircraft fleet. These are F-16s, which were produced in Europe in the 80s and underwent Mid-Life Update – MLU during the 90s and 2000s.

And it is quite a logical question, how long these used cars will be able to fly? And one of the best methods in this situation is not an attempt to analyze publicly available information regarding the F-16’s resourcefulness but to look at the example of one of the NATO countries – Romania, which found itself in a similar situation.

The fact is that Bucharest, not having a powerful financial resource, but understanding the need to update its air force, went by purchasing used F-16s. In 2016-2020, Romania initially ordered 17 used F-16s from Portugal (part in the form of spare parts donor aircraft). The deal’s value was 758 million euros, including spare parts, equipment, training, etc., and resale repairs.

At the same time, the Portuguese planes were already used because, in 1999, Lisbon received 25 used F-16 Block 15 produced in 1983-1984 from the USA for 268 million dollars. In the early 2000s, the cars underwent MLU upgrades.

How long can a used F-16 fly: an example of NATO countries and the USA itself.

In 2022, Romania bought 32 used F-16s from Norway for 388 million euros at an even more attractive price tag. And it is the Norwegian fighters that are most similar to those that are at the disposal of the Netherlands because they were even assembled in this country at the Fokker facilities. The aircraft were delivered from 1980 to 1989, with peak deliveries in 1982 to 1984. The machines also underwent an MLU update at the turn of the 1990s and 2000s.

And now, it is only possible to look at the plans of the Ministry of Defense of Romania regarding the transition from the F-16 to the F-35, which has already been officially approved. Under the contract signing conditions until 2024, the arrival of the first batch of 12 fighters is expected after 2030. 

In the best case, objectively, in the example of Greece, it will be no earlier than 2031 and most likely – only at the level of 2033-2034.

How long can a used F-16 fly: an example of NATO countries and the USA itself.

But receiving the machines does not mean that they will immediately become operational, which will allow the first F-16 squadron to be decommissioned immediately. That is why the first 12 F-16 fighter jets in Romania may be decommissioned in 2035, and they will obviously be the oldest “American-Portuguese” aircraft, which will be about 50 years old by that time.

At the same time, the US plans to keep part of the F-16 in operational condition until 2050, for which 299 F-16C/D fighters are undergoing major repairs. And deployment of aircraft in the latest version of Block 50/52 in the US Air Force began back in 1994. These machines can fly for quite a long time, provided that all routine work and major repairs are carried out.