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Slovakia inks deal to buy 14 F-16s from US Lockheed Martin

Slovak Defense Minister Peter Gajdos, right, and Lockheed Martin Vice-President Ana Wugofski, left, shake hands after signing a 1.6-billion euro deal on the purchase of 14 New F-16 Fighter Jets in Bratislava, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Michal Svitok/TASR via AP)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) -- Slovakia is to buy 14 F-16 military jets from Lockheed Martin as it seeks to replace Soviet-era jets.

Slovak Defense Minister Peter Gajdos signed the contract on Wednesday with Lockheed Martin vice president of international business development Ana Wugofski.

The F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets are meant to replace the obsolete Soviet-made MiG-29 jets that Slovakia's air force has used.

"I'm delighted to be here today to witness this historic, very important moment," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said in Bratislava. "This is a significant step for Slovakia in it is own defense, as an important NATO ally, and as an important step forward in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Slovakia," Sullivan said.

The first four jets are scheduled to be delivered by 2022, the remainder the following year.

Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said his country will pay over 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) for the aircraft. The deal also includes ammunition, the training of pilots and other personnel and logistics services.

"By signing, Slovakia declares it is ready to meet its obligations to increase its military budget and reach the goal of two percent of gross domestic product," Pellegrini said.

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