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Portugal eyes F-35 buy

With many of its European allies, including Norway (pictured), fielding the F-35A, Portugal is now eyeing the type also. (Royal Norwegian Air Force)

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II aircraft could emerge as the next combat aircraft in the inventory of the Portuguese Air Force (FAP).

The Chief of Staff of the FAP, General João Guilherme Rosado Cartaxo Alves, described the F-35A as the preferred choice to replace the Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon on 27 November.

Speaking at the SAE Media Group Military Airlift and Air-to-Air Refuelling conference in Lisbon, Gen Alves said the replacement process must start to prevent a loss of strategic relevance and operational credibility. He also noted that most European allies had already started the transition to the F-35.

The existing F-16AM/BM could extend its operational capability until 2030, however, with increasing levels of obsolescence, he said at the event in late November. Gen Alves confirmed that an acquisition will occur after 2030 as part of the newly established ‘Air Force 5.3' modernisation plan.

Portugal has been looking to replace its F-16 fleet with a fifth-generation fighter. The Director of the Engineering and Programs Directorate, Brigadier General João Rui Ramos Nogueira, told Janes that Portugal plans to acquire the F-35 through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, but declined to enter into details on the number of planned aircraft or an acquisition schedule.

Brig Gen Nogueira noted that the decision to go forward with an acquisition of the fifth-generation fighter will be made by government officials at a later stage.

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