21 November 2015
Indonesian F-16C Block 52 ID tail number TS-1637 (photo : KUTV 2News)
U.S. sells used F-16s to foreign countries, Hill AFB gets planes ready
(KUTV) Pilots and their warplanes at Hill Air Force Base are prepared to fight, when called to duty; but you might be surprised that Hill is getting F-16s ready to fight -- for somebody else.
From Pakistan to Poland -- Thailand to Oman -- Bahrain to Singapore -- two dozen countries have bought F-16s from the United States government.
"Today we've seen plenty of interest in acquiring F-16s," said Greg Brown, Deputy Director of the F-16 Program Office, which has operations at Hill and Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio.
On the tarmac, and inside a hangar at Hill last week, 2News was shown F-16s for Indonesia, which has bought more than twenty planes in the last couple of years, at a reported price in the range of $700 million.
What does an F-16 go for?
"It depends, if it's a new aircraft, it could be anywhere between $60 - 70 million," said Pamela Lee, F-16 International Branch Chief. A single used one might be half that much; and in the used market, Hill is a highly technical mechanic and body shop. The State Department is the sales office, deciding who can buy, and if a deal flies.
F-16s have gone to stable countries, not perceived as militaristic -- Belgium, Denmark, Norway. But the fighters have also gone to nations wracked by violence and political turmoil.
Iraq, where ISIS may control most cities, has purchased planes -- and may get three dozen F-16s. In September, Iraq is said to have used the jets to drop bombs on ISIS targets.
F-16s have also gone to Egypt, scene of protest, political upheaval, and a coup; though the State Department said sales have been put on a two year "pause."
But what safeguards are there, to ensure American military planes don't wind up in enemy hands?
In interview at Hill and with a State Department spokesman, it emerged that buyers must agree to U.S. monitoring for the life of the plane, and that the F-16 can't be resold without U.S. approval. Further, the United States can withhold technical support, and cut-off buyers.
"At every step of the process, we are taking the potential for misuse of the U.S. defense equipment into account," said State Department spokesman David McKeeby.
The sales goal is, "to further U.S. national security."
He said the sales mean, "We don't have to be everywhere. We can share the burden maintaining global security."
War planes have found up in enemy hands. In the 1970s, Iran flipped from friend to foe.
Iran may still have U.S. F-4s, F-5s and F-14 fighters that may have come through Hill.
2News Brian Mullahy was a passenger in a Hill F-15 for a dog-fight training run over the west desert, a G-force punishing mission. That plane was not exactly like the F-16s delivered to foreign governments. The restoration or the reconfiguration of a fighter jet work-horse can take years.