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Chile fails to sign F-16 deal, LOA to be extended

January 10, 2002 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The letter of offer and acceptance (LoA) to Chile for the $636 million sale of 10 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D block 50+ fighters will be extended by one month after the country failed to sign the deal yesterday, according to a Pentagon source.
Chilean President Ricardo Lagos had until yesterday to sign the LoA, which would have been the first major arms sale to Latin America since the 1982 sale of F-16A/Bs to Venezuela.

Lagos' failure to sign the deal may have been in deference to Argentina, which is suffering an economic crisis.

In 2000, Chile selected Lockheed Martin's F-16 over the JAS-39 Gripen by Britain's BAE SYSTEMS and Sweden's Saab and the Mirage 2000 offered by a combined team of France's Dassault, Thales, and Snecma, and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.

The Pentagon in June offered the sale of 10 F-16C/D fighters and two Boeing KC-135 tanker aircraft to Chile for $714 million. The F-16 sale would include four Northrop Grumman LITENING II targeting pods, 10 Northrop Grumman APG-68(V)XM radars, and six each of ALQ-131 and ALQ-184 electronic warfare pods. Northrop Grumman produces the ALQ-131 and Raytheon builds the ALQ-184. The F-16s would be outfitted with General Electric F-110-GE-129 engines that would also be acquired in a separate commercial purchase (Defense Daily, May 4).

The new fighters will replace some of the Chilean air force's Mirages built by France's Dassault, F-5s built by Northrop Grumman and A-37s built by Cessna.

The F-16 sale to Chile initially met some opposition last year from Congress, with nine democratic senators expressing concern over the sale of Raytheon Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), Lockheed Martin Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared System for Night (LANTIRN) pods, and conformal fuel tanks. Chile maintained, however, that it never requested AMRAAMs for the aircraft.

The foreign military sale offer ultimately was not opposed by Congress. Lockheed Martin has said that the Chilean order, plus the sale of 52 F- 16s to Israel and 12 F-16s to Oman, will push F-16 production through 2008. Lockheed Martin last month signed a $1.3 billion contract for the Israeli sale.