December 6, 1998 (by Lieven Dewitte) - This week, a high-ranking United Arab Emirates military team will visit the United States to discuss technical differences blocking a Lockheed Martin F-16 deal worth almost $7 billion.
The deal was blocked in recent months with Abu Dhabi insisting on full control over "source codes" 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 UAL's main arms procurement officer, Chief-of-Staff General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zaid al-Nahayan, was due to go to the United States last October to move the deal along 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. News of the F-16 delay has again revived hopes of the Eurofighter made by a four-nation European consortium. 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.