Portugal Joins F-16 Group, Precision Munitions Group Formed
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 9, 2000 Improving NATO interoperability was at the heart of a June 9 ceremony here that included Portugal in the Multi-National Fighter Program.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and the ministers of defense from Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands participated in the signing. The program upgrades each country’s F-16 fighter fleet. It has been in effect since 1975.
The fighter program will allow Portugal to increase the capabilities of their F-16s, said Defense Minister Julio Castro Caldas.
Norway’s Defense Minister Bjorn Tore Godal said the program will allow member nations to keep F-16s flying and fighting through 2012 to 2015. The group has participated in the early phases of the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter program, helping to come up with specifications for the aircraft.
In addition, the six countries will cooperate in purchasing and stockpiling precision-guided munitions -- most notably the U.S.-made Joint Stand-off Weapon and the Joint Direct Attack Munition. Operation Allied Force over Kosovo last year, pointed to the need for more such weapons, and it is a part of the Defense Capabilities Initiative.
The precision-guided munitions working group will begin deliberations soon. NATO is looking at emulating this group approach in other areas of the Defense Capabilities Initiative, Cohen said.
“All of us have signed on the requirements that have been identified -- both before Kosovo and during Kosovo,” he said. “We’re going to look at upgrading the command, control and communications, individual countries will look at increasing airlift capacity. These are all things looked at during the summit.”