On April 14th, the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) swiftly deployed F-16 fighters to intercept Iranian drones en route to Israel. This tactical response, under Operation True Promise, was prompted by an Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic facility in Syria.

This operation marks a significant historical event, demonstrating unprecedented direct military support for Israel from an Arab nation. It highlights the evolving strategic partnerships Israel has cultivated with select Western-aligned Arab states, notably Jordan and Morocco.

Since 2011, Jordan has played a pivotal role in supporting Western, Israeli, and Turkish military endeavors against Syria, a historical adversary of both Israel and the United States since the Cold War era.

Israel has historically provided military assistance to Jordan, including the transfer of military aircraft in the 2010s and regular bilateral military exercises. However, these interactions have not been immune to controversy.

Following the 2023 Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in significant civilian casualties and allegations of genocide, tensions strained Jordan-Israel relations, fueled by global outcry and regional sensitivities.

Complicating matters further, a substantial portion of Jordan’s population is of Palestinian descent, adding complexity to the government’s efforts to navigate its alliance with Israel smoothly.

Jordan’s acquisition of F-16 fighters in the late 20th century significantly bolstered its Air Force capabilities. Equipped with modern AIM-120 air-to-air missiles, unlike neighboring countries such as Egypt and Iraq, Jordan’s fleet comprises approximately 47 of these formidable aircraft, with the initial order placed in 1995 and subsequent deliveries completed between 1997 and 1998.

On January 19, 2023, the Jordanian Ministry of Defence unveiled a significant procurement initiative, placing an order for 12 state-of-the-art F-16 fighters built to the latest Block 70/72 standard. The contract, valued at $4.21 billion, translates to an approximate unit cost of slightly over $350 million, which is notably three times higher than the per-unit cost observed in Taiwan’s 2019 purchase of the same aircraft variant, each priced below $125 million.

This substantial price gap, particularly when compared to Israel’s procurement of brand-new F-35 fighters at approximately $120 million per unit, has drawn scrutiny and speculation regarding potential irregularities within the deal. However, it also underscores the recognition that in a broader regional conflict scenario, adversaries such as Iran and other Western Bloc opponents would face not only Western, Israeli, and Turkish forces but also formidable support from several Western-aligned Arab states.

The F-16 fleet of the Royal Jordanian Air Force distinguishes itself in the realm of advanced airborne technology, boasting a comprehensive array of cutting-edge weaponry and systems. Notably, the aircraft features the AN/APG-68 radar, renowned for its superior detection capabilities. Complementing this is the AN/ALR-69 Radar Warning Receiver, providing pilots with timely alerts regarding potential radar threats, while the AN/ALQ-131 Electronic Countermeasures Pod enhances the aircraft’s stealth capabilities by disrupting enemy radar signals.

Equipped with an impressive arsenal, including AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, as well as AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles, the F-16s are well-prepared for various combat scenarios. Additionally, the aircraft features a 20mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon for close-quarter engagements.

In terms of avionics, the F-16s incorporate state-of-the-art systems such as the Heads-Up Display (HUD) for projecting critical flight and targeting data, along with a hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) control system, enabling pilots to maintain seamless control over the aircraft and its systems. Furthermore, advanced navigation capabilities, including the Inertial Navigation System (INS) and Global Positioning System (GPS), enhance operational effectiveness and situational awareness.