August 22, 2001 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Hungary is examining an Israeli offer for the upgrade of F-16 A and B model jets Budapest plans to lease from the United States.
Israeli and Hungarian defense officials said an Israeli consortium has presented an offer to upgrade 24 F-16s. They said the upgrade is based on the F-16 upgraded prototype that the consortium has completed for the Israel Air Force. Amid budget constraints, the air force has delayed plans to upgrade is A and B model fleet.
"The Israeli offer is very tempting," a Hungarian defense official said. "It's cheaper than competing offers."
IAI's competition in the Hungarian F-16 project is Lockheed Martin. The Lockheed Martin offer was based on the mid-life upgrade that the U.S. firm has conducted for several NATO
But Israeli defense officials are skeptical that the consortium can beat Lockheed Martin. They said they doubt whether the Pentagon will allow a non-U.S. contractor to upgrade American-built jets transferred to Hungary. The United States has offered to lease 24 A and B models to Hungary.
"There could be a head-on collision with Lockheed Martin," an Israeli official said. "Perhaps we could get Lockheed Martin as a partner in the Hungarian project."