Canadian defense contractor Top Aces is in talks with the Israeli government to procure 29 of their retired F-16s for about $100 million, reports have indicated.
The Israeli F-16s are the A/B variant and were inducted into the Israel Air Force in the 1980s, the last of which was withdrawn from active service in 2016 and held in reserve.
These aircraft are combat-tested and have been used in several operations, including ‘Operation Opera’ (a 1981 Israeli airstrike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction near Baghdad) and strikes against Syrian forces.
They also downed a Syrian Mi-8 by cannon fire in the year 1981, marking the first combat kill for an F-16 ever. After that, the aircraft participated in the First Lebanon War and downed 82 MiG-21 and MiG-23 jets.
With the introduction of the later C/D variants of the Falcon, the older airframes were subsequently phased out, and would now be used by the Canadian contractor for training services with the United States Air Force.
According to Israeli news agency Globes, the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT) is leading the discussion with the Montreal-based defense contractor.
The company’s director of Marketing and Communications told Andre Allard, who writes for Wings Over Quebec, “We have purchased 29 F-16 aircraft from a Foreign Military Sale customer. The aircraft have been actively preserved and are fit for flight. We are currently finalizing third-party transfer with the US State Department and expect them in Mesa, Arizona, our US headquarters in late 2020.”
Rumors had been circulating about the company’s acquisition of these fighter jets. Recently, the Israeli government held an auction for its military hardware including fighter and cargo planes. The F-16Cs were believed to be part of the auction as well.
However, F-16A/Bs were absent from the sale, which fueled the rumors that Jerusalem might have finally found a buyer. It is worth mentioning that Israel was looking for customers to buy its F-16 A/Bs for about 3 years.
Top Aces is a Montreal-based defense firm that offers contracted airborne training services to the Canadian Armed Forces. Top Aces operates a fleet of modernized fighter aircraft to provide ‘Red Air’ threat replication, Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training, practice munitions drop, air-to-air gunnery training, and naval target tow profiles for the Canadian and German militaries.
It also provides electronic warfare training and tactics development and supports advanced radar trials in nationally-controlled environments.
With this acquisition, the company would have a fleet of approximately 75 second-hand fighter jets. Ironically, the Royal Canadian Air Force has almost the same number of fighter jets in its fleet — 76 CF-18 Hornets.