Slovakia has selected the Lockheed Martin F-16V over the Saab Gripen as its future fighter to replace Soviet-era MiG-29s.

Bratislava will purchase 14 F-16Vs, the Slovak defense ministry said last week, making it the first European nation to operate the F-16V.

The purchase will mean that Slovakia will have the most modern F-16s in Europe. “Based on thorough analysis, we have chosen the best solution,” Slovak Defense Minister Peter Gajdoš said.

He said the F-16s had “no competition in terms of price, quality and capabilities.” Deliveries of the F-16Vs could begin within 36 months, the defense ministry says.

The news likely is a shock to Saab and the Swedish government, who have been negotiating with the Slovaks for a possible Gripen sale or lease for several years, highlighting the type’s low cost of operation compared to its contemporaries.

However, the Slovaks claim otherwise, stating that the U.S. deal was more advantageous in part because the U.S. agreements were in place and ready to be signed off, while an agreement with Stockholm would need further negotiation. The Slovaks also were concerned about the involvement of a third party to supply weaponry and other systems, which it says could have resulted in additional delays.

The Slovak evaluation determined the Gripen had poorer range, performance and older avionics compared with the F-16. The F-16V is the most modern version of the F-16 and kitted out with an active electronically scanned array radar. Bratislava’s ratings gave the Gripen a score of 82% on the defense ministry’s requirements, while the F-16 scored 93%.

Evaluation documents justifying the purchase say that an enhanced defense relationship with the U.S. by buying the F-16 would create “stronger opportunities” for economic and social development, whereas agreements with Sweden could be more limited in scope given that it is not a member of NATO. While it was recognized that a Gripen deal would “strengthen the European defense industry base, Bratislava preferred to opt for a U.S. deal.

It seems likely that the decision was timed with the meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels. NATO figures suggest Slovakia will spend 1.2% of its gross domestic product on defense during 2018, well short of the 2% target, although ministers are planning to raise the figure to around 1.6% by 2020.

However, the purchase will likely add to the growing frustration of European defense companies who are seeing Eastern European countries, often the largest recipients of funding from the European Union, turning to U.S. contractors for their defense equipment needs.

Slovakia currently operates a fleet of 12 Mikoyan MiG-29s for the country’s air defense, but the aircraft are suffering from low availability and are supported by a team of Russian engineers, an issue that has raised eyebrows for some of Slovakia’s NATO partners.