The United Arab Emirates Air Force ordered a total of 80 F-16E/F block 60 aircraft, becoming the first customer for this advanced version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The UAEAF also acquired AIM-120 AMRAAM, AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-88 HARM, Laser Guided Bombs, and other sophisticatd munitions for its F-16s.
In September 1996, the government of the United Arab Emirates notified Lockheed Martin that the F-16 and the Rafale, produced by the French Dassault company, had been selected as final candidates in the UAE's consideration of a new fighter aircraft. The McDonnell Douglas F-15 had been officially eliminated from the competition.
Lockheed Martin had offered a range of F-16 configurations for consideration during the UAE's fighter evaluation process. The configuration considered at that time was designated Block 60, and incorporates the F-16ES's conformal fuel tanks and internally mounted FLIR. Since the Block 60 has only been offered to the UAE (as the F-16U (not official)), all development costs have been paid for by the United Arab Emirates. The UAE have linked a potential order to the availability of the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
On November 22nd, 1997, the United Arab Emirates declared the fulfillment of an offset requirement was a prerequisite for awarding the lucrative fighter deal.
The first UAEAF F-16F block 60. Note the Conformal Fuel Tanks, Internal Flir housing, and the numerous bulges for RWRs. [LMTAS
On May 12th, 1998, the government of the United Arab Emirates announced that it had selected Lockheed Martin's new F-16 Block 60's as its advanced fighter aircraft. The total program including 80 aircraft (55 C's and 25 D's). The order, the first for this model, will secure some 30,000 US jobs. The deal would make the UAE a key player in the arms market for years to come, if not also the developed world's largest weapons importer - a post held by Saudi Arabia for years.
As it appeared however, announcement of the deal had been made prematurely by US officials. During the first week of December 1998, a high-ranking United Arab Emirates military team visited the United States to discuss technical differences blocking the USD $7 billion deal. The deal was blocked in recent months with Abu Dhabi insisting on full control over source code for the F-16 Block 60 and its weapons systems.
Although oil-rich Abu Dhabi, slowly emerging as one of the world's largest arms importers, has not officially said it would seek other alternatives if its requirements are not met, it has reopened talks with competitors who in May lost out to the most advanced F-16, the Block 60. The UAE's main arms procurement officer, Chief-of-Staff General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zaid al-Nahayan, was due to go to the United States in late October to move the deal ahead but his visit has been delayed due to the differences. Instead, the UAE again approached Dassault Aviation, which was in the running with its Rafale. The delay in the F-16 program has again revived hopes for the Eurofighter advocates.
Ultimately,the UAE and the US reached an agreement and the deal for 80 aircraft was signed.
On December 6th, 2003, the first UAEAF F-16 Block 60 made its maiden flight from Lockheed's Fort Worth facility, with Lockheed Martin F-16E/F chief test pilot Steve Barter at the controls. The aircraft's designation, F-16E/F, recognizes the major structural, avionics and propulsion enhancements in this practically all-new version of the Fighting Falcon.
The UAE will take delivery of a first batch of F-16E/Fs in 2004. The Gulf federation started upgrading two airforce bases last year to cope with the delivery of the Block 60 aircraft. UAE pilots and personnel will be trained in Tucson, AZ. A number of Block 60 aircraft will be based at Holloman AFB for further testing.
UAE F-16F Block 60 #3001
takes off on its maiden flight from Ft. Worth., on Dec 6th, 2003. [LMTAS
Follow on Order
In 2011 already it became apparant that the UAE still wanted more advanced fighters in its inventory. Numerous times a deal was announced, one time for the Eurofighter Typhoon, than for the Dassault Rafale, but none of these orders ever came through. In 2013 there were rumours that the UAE was fed up with the delays encountered with the different aircraft manufacturers that they have shown interest in acquiring another batch of F-16s. This batch was rumoured to be called a new 'block 61' version of the viper. This version would entail some differences over the existing block 60 airframes. For one the AN/APG-80 radar which is no longer produced and some other changes. Little has come forward since 2013 about this deal and we'll have to wait if it comes to fruition in the future.
Modifications & Armament
The UAE purchased USD $2 billion in sophisticated aircraft armament for its F-16s, including 491 AIM-120B AMRAAM Missiles, 267 AIM-9M Sidewinder, 163 AGM-88 Harm, 1,163 AGM-65D/G Maverick, 52 AGM-84 Harpoon, laser guided bombs, 20mm ammunition and other weaponry.
Please refer to the F-16 Units
section for an overview of units.