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UAE celebrate arrival of first F-16E/F Desert Falcons

May 5, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The United Arab Emirates (UAE) celebrated the arrival of its first F-16E/F aircraft on May 3rd. The first "Desert Falcon" F-16s to be based in the UAE were received by the crown prince, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

UAEAF F-16F block 60 #3001 is landing at NAS Fort Worth with a full fuel load-out on March 22nd, 2005. [Photo by Keith Robinson]

The first 10 aircraft were flown by UAE Air Force pilots who recently completed F-16 training in the United States.

"This is a proud and significant day for the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defense Force and our nation," said Major General Khalid bin Abdullah Al Buainain, Commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence. "These aircraft have the latest capabilities and will help ensure the security of our nation for many years to come. Arrival of the F-16E/Fs is a giant step in the Air Force modernization process that our country's leaders began planning more than a decade ago."

The ceremony was attended by Gen. Michael Moseley, vice chief of staff of the US Air Force.

The F-16E/F aircraft version, also known as block 60, is the latest and most advanced of the long lineage of F-16s produced by Lockheed Martin. The new F-16's major difference is the Northrop Grumman APG-80 multimode radar, for improved tracking of multiple targets.

The Block 60 configuration is the most extensive change in the history of the F-16 program. Its unique features include new cockpit displays and a new mission computer.

The UAE has ordered a total of 80 aircraft.

The first flight of the F-16E/F was made in December 2003. Flight testing by Lockheed Martin began in early 2004 and is continuing with three F-16F models. UAE pilot training on the F-16E/F began at Tucson Air National Guard Base, Ariz., in September 2004, and the first group of pilots completed their training in April 2005. Popular Science named the F-16E/F Block 60 one of the top 100 technical innovations in 2004.

The F-16s will be based at the Al Dhafra and at the Al-Minhad air base.

Delivery of the aircraft should be completed in 2008 and US pilots and air force experts are present in the UAE to handle training and logistics.

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Additional images:

UAEAF F-16F block 60 #3010 is parked at Tuscon IAP with Arizona ANG markings applied to the tail. [Photo by Eli]