Why do so many countries buy used fighter jets?

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Last year saw a significant increase in the number of countries choosing to purchase or expressing an intention to purchase used fighter aircraft to strengthen their air force for a variety of reasons.

Malaysia is said to want to expand its fleet with F-18 Hornet fighters. However, Malaysia is not looking to buy from the US, instead, it wants to buy all 33 Hornets from Kuwait. The acquisition of this squadron will help Malaysia improve the readiness and ability of this force in defending the country’s airspace.

The Royal Norwegian Air Force has replaced its fleet of F-16s with stealthy F-35s, ready to sell their used F-16s to another NATO country. In December 2021, the Romanian Parliament approved the purchase of 32 used F-16s from Norway under a deal worth about $513 million. Romania currently operates 17 F-16s.

The purchase of Norwegian fighters will increase the size of the fleet and allow Bucharest to replace the much older Soviet-era MiG-21 jets. Romania’s defense minister believes that used F-16s are still in good condition and “viable” for at least another 10 years.

Croatia has agreed to buy a batch of 12 used Rafale fighters from France, in a deal worth one billion euros ($1.2 billion) to replace Russian-made MiGs. France must deliver the first six twin-engine planes by 2024, with the remaining six to be delivered in 2025. This is the country’s biggest arms purchase since independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Croatia joined NATO in 2009 and four years later joined the European Union. The purchase of the Rafale would take Croatia’s spending above the 2% threshold of GDP required by NATO.

The Royal Danish Air Force is also ordering 27 F-35s through 2027 and plans to sell around 43 F-16s it has. The Colombian Air Force has its eyes on six Danish F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Negotiations are underway. The F-16 appears to be Colombia’s first choice, as an offer from Lockheed Martin for the F-16V (Block 70) could become too expensive for the needy Colombian government, despite the company’s long service life. This variant is much longer than the Danish F-16AM/BM.

Meanwhile, there is speculation that Ankara may be interested in purchasing Danish F-16 jets. Turkey was banned from buying the F-35 after it purchased the advanced Russian S-400 air defense missile system. Now they want to upgrade their F-16s. But even if Turkey were interested in buying the F-16s from Denmark, Copenhagen would not be allowed to sell them to Turkey without the green light from Washington.

In 2006, Venezuela threatened to sell Iran its fleet of 21 F-16s, purchased in the early 1980s, but Washington warned Caracas at the time that “without the written consent of the United States, it cannot be transferred the F-16s, to a third country.”

In January 2021, under a €2.5 billion deal, Greece ordered 18 French Rafale fighters, 12 of which are second-hand, with the aim of enhancing the capabilities of the Air Force. Hellenic troops amid rising tensions with neighboring Turkey.

Later, the Greek Prime Minister revealed plans to buy six more Rafales, bringing the total to 24. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has just ordered 80 new French Rafale F4 jets, may also sell its upgraded Mirage 2000s to Greece.

Different reasons for the contracts

There is also reasonable speculation that one reason Israel is not looking for new F-15EXs for its air force is that it is waiting for an opportunity to buy old F-15 from US and later upgrade with Israeli tech.

Canada recently purchased seven used F-18s from Australia to bolster its fleet of CF-18s. The slow integration of used jets into the country’s air force has angered the Conservative opposition in the country.

At the end of August 2021, the Indian Air Force (IAF) signed an agreement with a private French company to buy back old Mirage 2000 jets, in order to supply spare parts for the current Mirage fleet of this country. The deal is an effort to strengthen its aging fleet of fourth-generation fighters, while securing parts for its two existing Mirage 2000 squadrons. As of November 2021, India has received 2 used Mirage 2000 aircraft from the above batch.

Previously, in 2018, Russia offered India to sell 21 used MiG-29 Fulcrums at a huge discount. New Delhi was skeptical of the offer, fearing that “hidden costs” would make the acquisition more expensive over time.

Sources at the time aptly compared the proposed deal with the MiG-29 to the purchase of a printer. While the actual printer may not be too expensive to buy, the ink cartridges needed to use it can be costly in the long run.

Meanwhile, India is purchasing 24 used Mirage 2000s from France to utilize their existing 300 critical spare parts.

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