In May of 1982, the government of Venezuela signed an agreement to buy 18 Block 15 OCU F-16As and six Block 15 OCU F-16Bs to replace the fleet of Mirage III interceptors and Mirage 5 ground-attack aircraft serving with the Fuerza Aerea Venezolana. This purchase was under the Peace Delta Foreign Military Sales program. This purchase took a long time to be approved, because the US government wanted to sell Venezuela the F-16/79 instead. However, in 1983, the US government finally approved the sale of the F100-powered F-16 to Venezuela, and the first aircraft was accepted for the FAV in September of 1983.
The FAV F-16s equip Groupo Aereo de Caza No. 16 "Dragones", which is based at El Liberatador air base at Palo Negro near Maracay. This group has two squadrons--Escuadron 161 "Caribes" and Escuadron 162 "Gavilanes". The primary role of Escuadron 161 is air defense, the main armament being the AIM-9L Sidewinder. The F-16s of Esc 162 are dedicated to the close-support role. FAV F-16s have a drogue 'chute carried in an extended tailcone, with antennae for RWR and ECM equipment mounted on the fairing. Venezuelan F-16s have been modified to carry the Israeli Python IV infrared-guided air-to-air missile, and they can carry the Rafael Litening II targeting podl
The FAV F-16s were involved in the limited coup attempt in November of 1992, in which they sided with the government forces and were responsible for at least one aerial kill.
Venezeuela has requested a batch of F-16C/Ds, but the US government has so far blocked the request, since it considers the FAV's current F-16 force sufficient for the country's defense.
The FAV has lost two F-16s in accidents (9581 and 2179), and is seeking attrition replacements for these two planes since late 1997, but has so far not been able to obtain them due to financial problems and souring relations between the United States and the government of President Hugo Chavez. On 15 May 2006, the U.S. government announced that it would enact a ban on arms sales to Venezuela to become effective at the beginning of October of that year. This embargo was expected to soon render Venezuela’s F-16 fleet non-operational, and General Alberto Muller, a military advisor to President Chávez, responded to the embargo announcement with a threat to sell Venezuela’s remaining 21 F-16s to Iran. Subsequently, the Chávez government decided to pursue replacement of its American-sourced military aircraft inventory with Russian aircraft, and in mid-June 2006 it was revealed that Venezuela had recently ordered several Sukhoi Su 30s.
The Venezuelan serialling system has always been mysterious and the numbers seem to defy any logic. However, their identities are known and are as follows:
82-1050 General Dynamics F-16A Block 15K Fighting Falcon built for export to Venezuela (1041) 82-1051/1052 General Dynamics F-16A Block 15L Fighting Falcon built for export to Venezuela (0051,6611) 82-1053/1055 General Dynamics F-16B Block 15K Fighting Falcon built for export to Venezuela (1715,2179,9581) 83-1186/1188 General Dynamics F-16A Block 15T Fighting Falcon built for export to Venezuela as 8900, 0678,3260 83-1189/1191 General Dynamics F-16B Block 15T Fighting Falcon built for export to Venezuela as 2337, 7635,9583 84-1346/1353 General Dynamics F-16A Block 15U Fighting Falcon built for export to Venezuela as 7268,9068,8924,0094,6023,4226,5422, 6426 84-1354/1357 General Dynamics F-16A Block 15V Fighting Falcon built for export to Venezuela as 4827,9864,3648,0220.