July 16, 1999 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Israeli government officials told aerospace company Lockheed Martin that they will buy 50 of its F-16 fighter jets, thus ending a heated competition with Boeing, a Lockheed spokesman said late Friday.
The contract, which could be signed later this year, also gives Israel
the option to buy 60 additional fighters within 24 months, said Joe Stout, the spokesman. "We haven't seen anything written, but we do have a verbal commitment that the F-16 is the one that they picked, " Stout said. "It may be Sunday until we know more."
Lockheed delivered the first of Israel's 260 F-16 jets in the early 1980s. The deal was announced during a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to the United States. Israel Army Radio reported that Barak agreed during a meeting in Washington with Defense Secretary William Cohen to buy the planes in a deal worth about $2.5 billion.
The new sale could generate "about $1. 8 billion" in revenue for Lockheed and about $700 million for other makers of components that are included in theF-16 fighter, like radar systems and engine parts, Stout said. The pending sale to Israel -- which has the second-largest F-16 fleet outside the United States -- comes in the wake of Friday's recommendation by the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee to halt production of Lockheed's F-22 jet.
The panel approved a $266 billion fiscal 2000 spending bill that cuts six of the fighters from the U.S. defense budget and spends the $1. 8 billion insavings on existing fighter fleets and a program that seeks to retain U.S. military pilots through higher salaries and bonus incentives. Barak was in New York Saturday for visits to a synagogue and with Jewish leaders.