The US State Department has approved a request by the government of Chile to purchase nearly $635 million worth of equipment and services to upgrade its F-16 fighters.
Chile's Air Force has more than 40 F-16s. The estimated $634.7 million sale is said to be the first approved for the South American country by the US since the start of fiscal 2017.
"The proposed sale will improve Chile’s capability to meet current and future threats by modernizing its F-16 fleet, which will allow Chile to maintain sovereignty and homeland defense, increase interoperability with the United States and other partners, and deter potential adversaries," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a statement on its website.
The upgrades included in the sale include 19 Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing Systems, six inert MK-82 (500LB) general purpose bomb bodies, two MXU-650KB Air Foil Groups; 44 LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI) and 49 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radios, the DSCA said.
Also included are avionics equipment, software upgrades, new radios, upgraded Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponders, secure communications and precision navigation equipment, among others.
In addition, the DSCA said the sale "will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a strategic partner in South America."
Lockheed Martin, producer of the F-16, will be the prime contractor for the deal if it is given final approval. All US foreign military sales must be cleared by Congress and then finalized through negotiations.
On Friday, Chile’s Undersecretary of Defense Cristián de la Maza in a statement on Twitter that the upgrade program is aimed at extending the operational life of the F-16s and avoiding much more expensive replacements. He said payments would be made over more than nine years.
The upgrade is seen as confirming Chile’s commitment to remain under the US military umbrella.