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Saving the day for good old F.16

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  • Saving the day for good old F.16

    Orders from Turkey and Pakistan bolster Lockheed Martin F-16 Falcon production line through 2010
    By Graham Warwick
    Latest orders to safeguard Lockheed’s Falcon production until 2010; Taiwanese sale hits political stumbling block
    US Congress has been notified of the proposed sale of 30 additional Lockheed Martin F-16s to Turkey, and Pakistan has signed a deal to acquire 18 new F-16s, additional refurbished aircraft and to upgrade its older F-16A/Bs.

    The two orders, when finalised, are expected to extend F-16 production to 2010.

    But the potential sale of 66 F-16C/Ds to Taiwan has hit a hurdle, with the country’s defence minister saying the US government has suspended the deal because the Taipei parliament failed to approve the budget for a previous US arms package.

    The earlier deal, which included Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and Raytheon/Lockheed Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missile systems first offered in 2001, is embroiled in a political wrangle, and the defence minister says Washington will only agree to sell F-16s after Taipei passes the special budget.

    The proposed Turkish deal, worth up to $2.9 billion, is for 30 Block 50 F-16C/Ds with General Electric F110-129 engines, Northrop Grumman APG-68(V)9 radars, Link 16 datalinks and helmet-mounted cueing systems. Ankara has previously purchased 240 F-16s, with all but the initial few built in-country by Tusas Aerospace Industries. In April 2005, it signed a $3.9 billion contract to upgrade 217 of its aircraft to a common configuration.

    The combined F-16 deals are worth $5.1 billion to Lockheed Martin

    Pakistan, meanwhile, has signed a letter of offer and acceptance for 18 Pratt & Whitney F100-powered Block 52 F-16C/Ds, with an option for another 18 new aircraft, plus mid-life upgrades (MLU) for the country’s 32 F-16A/Bs and 26 secondhand aircraft to be acquired by Islamabad.

    When notified to Congress in July the combined deals, including weapons and support, were valued at $5.1 billion.

    A dispute over airspace and technology restrictions demanded by the US government has been resolved, with local reports quoting Pakistan air force commander Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmad as saying: “There are no handicaps or limitations on the use of the latest F-16C/D Block 52 as well as F-16A/B MLU [aircraft]...imposed by the US authorities.”

    In July, a US state department official said Pakistan would have to comply with “unprecedented” security for its F-16s, which will operate alongside Chinese- supplied fighters. Routine access to aircraft and munitions would be confined restricted areas, and this access would be monitored and limited to approved Pakistan air force personnel.

    Maintenance would also be limited to air force personnel exchanging line- and shop-replaceable units. F-16 flights outside Pakistan or participation in exercises and operations with third-party nations would also have to be approved by the USA, the official said.

    However, Tanvir says: “The Pakistan air force is totally independent in deploying these aircraft against all sorts of targets, in both defensive and offensive roles. All US suspicions are cleared.”
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