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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Turkish Aerospace Industries will deliver the Turkish air force's first new Lockheed Martin F-16 during March under the Peace Onyx 4

Peace Onyx I

In September 1983, the government of Turkey announced plans to buy 132 F-16C's and 24 F-16D's under the Peace Onyx I program, which operates under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The first eight aircraft in the order were to be built at Fort Worth, but the remaining 148 aircraft were to be assembled in Turkey at TUSAS Aerospace Industries (TAI) at Akinci (formerly Mürted). TUSAS is an acronym which stands for Turkiye Ucak Sanayii AS, or Turkish Aircraft Industries, which is a company owned jointly by Turkish and American shareholders. Under the terms of Peace Onyx I, TAI is not allowed to sell its aircraft to any air force, including the THK. Consequently, F-16s built at Akinci have to be delivered first to the USAF, which then turns them over to the THK. In practice, each locally-built F-16 makes a flight to NAS Sigonella (or any other US base close to Turkey) where it performs a touch-and-go (obligatory; the aircraft has to touch US soil) and then flies back to Turkey.

The Turk Hava Kuvvetleri(THK, or Turkish Air Force) received its first two F-16s (both Lockheed-built block 30 F-16C's, #86-0066 and #86-0067) as assembly kits in March of 1987, and Turkey officially received its first F-16D in a ceremony at Fort Worth in July of 1987. The first Turkish F-16C/D's arrived at Murted AB in October of 1987, followed by the first flight of a Turkish-built F-16C (#86-0068) on October 20th, 1987. Starting with the 44th aircraft (USAF serial number #88-0033), all THK F-16s from the first batch were manufactured to block 40 standard. Production of the Peace Onyx I order ended with F-16C Block 40 #93-0014.

TAI has also been awarded a contract to build wings, center fuselages, and aft fuselages for USAF F-16s. They have also been awarded a contract to build 46 Block 40 F-16C/D's for the Egyptian Air Force under the Peace Vector IV program (to be delivered through the USAF of course).

Peace Onyx II

TUAF F-16C block 50s #94-0077 and #94-0078 on a CAP mission, armed with two AIM-120s. These aircraft were delivered as part of the Peace Onyx III deal. In March of 1992, a follow-on order for two batches of 40 block 50 F-16C/D's (68 C's and 12 D's) was placed under the Peace Onyx II FMS program. The funding of the first 40 planes will be met primarily by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Emirates. Peace Onyx II started with the production of F-16 Block 50, serial number #93-0657. The program is worth some USD $3.5 billion. TEI (Turkish Engine Industries) will supply 96 F129 IPE engines, ASELSAN will produce 100 LN93-RLG. The Peace Onyx II aircraft were delevered from 1996 till 1997.

Peace Onyx III

During the nineties a second batch of 40 additional F-16C/D's had been ordered. These aircraft were intended as attrition replacements. Reportedly, the F-15 and F-18 were also in the running as replacement for the lost F-16s, though never made it due to logistical considerations. The Peace Onyx III aircraft were delivered between 1998 and 1999

Peace Onyx IV

In late 2006 there already were rumours that a new sale of F-16s to Turkey was imminent. However, Turkey had some disagreements with both the US government as with Lockheed over the deal. The US government wanted a Cyprus fly-over ban imposed on the aircraft and Lockheed couldn't meet up with the expected 2010-2011 delivery frame.

In May of 2007 a deal was finally reached and the problems with the US government evidently solved as well as the delivery schedule. This was achieved by allowing licence building of the aircraft at the TUSAS factory in Turkey, just as the other F-16s were mainly build in Turkey in the past. The order compromises of 30 F-16s and associated equipment to cover attrition and a stop-gap measure untill the arrival of the F-35 from 2015 onwards.

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