Desert Falcon

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Unread post13 Mar 2019, 21:37


The most advanced F-16s in the world aren’t American. That distinction belongs to the UAE, whose F-16 E/F Block 60s are a half-generation ahead of the F-16 C/D Block 50/52+ aircraft that form the backbone of the US Air Force, and of many other fleets around the world. The Block 60 has been described as a lower-budget alternative to the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, and there’s a solid argument to be made that their performance figures and broad sensor array will even keep them ahead of pending F-16 modernizations in countries like Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore.

The UAE invested in the “Desert Falcon’s” development, and the contract reportedly includes royalty fees if other countries buy it. Investment doesn’t end when the fighters are delivered, either. Money is still needed for ongoing training, fielding, and equipment needs – and the UAE has decided that they need more planes, too. This DID article showcases the F-16 Block 60/61, and offers a window into its associated costs and life cycle, including dedicated equipment purchases for this fighter fleet.

Each new iteration of the fighter costs money to develop, integrate, and test. The UAE invested almost $3 billion into research and development for the F-16 E/F Block 60 Desert Falcon. First flight took place in December 2003, and flight testing by Lockheed Martin began in early 2004. UAE pilot training on the F-16E/F began at Tucson Air National Guard Base, AZ in September 2004, and the first group of pilots completed their training in April 2005. The first Desert Falcons arrived in the UAE in May 2005.

All of the initial 60 aircraft have been delivered, and all training now takes place in the UAE. Versions of this aircraft have been entered in a number of international export competitions as well, including Brazil’s F-X2 (eliminated) and India’s MMRCA (eliminated), but it hasn’t found any buyers yet. Production will restart soon anyway, thanks to the UAE’s impending add-on buy 30 F-16 E/F Block 61s with minor component upgrades.

The F-16 has now undergone 6 major block changes since its inception in the late 1970s, incorporating 4 generations of core avionics, 5 engine versions divided between 2 basic models (P&W F100 and GE F110), 5 radar versions, 5 electronic warfare suites, and 2 generations of most other subsystems. Moore’s Law applies as well, albeit more slowly: the latest F-16’s core computer suite has over 2,000 times the memory, and over 260 times the throughput, of the original production F-16.
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Elite 1K

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Unread post14 Mar 2019, 13:15

The UAE bought 80 Vipers, not 60 :wink:

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