January 13, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $1.34 billion contract to build 50 F-16D fighter jets for Israel by the U.S. Department of Defense. This completes negotiations that began after Israel's July selection of the advanced F-16 as its new fighter and follows a letter of acceptance signed between the two countries in September.
It opted for the less expensive jets instead of buying costly F-15I ground-attack jets built by Boeing Co.
The latest sale of weaponry to Israel
is in keeping with Washington's long-standing assurance that it will support military superiority for its long-time close Middle East ally. The contract was awarded as Israel and Syria prepared for a third round of Middle East peace talks in the Washington area later this month.
The total program, including the aircraft, mission equipment and a support package, is worth about $2.5 billion to Lockheed Martin, various suppliers and U.S. government agencies. The agreement provides Israel an option to purchase 60 additional aircraft that would bring the total program value to $4.5 billion, if exercised for the full 110 aircraft.
Israel is acquiring an advanced version of the aircraft that includes video data link equipment and Conformal Fuel Tanks manufactured by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI); advanced avionics and a helmet-mounted display manufactured by Elbit; an advanced electronic warfare suite manufactured by Elisra; advanced weapons and sensors manufactured by Rafael; and other improved systems. IAI, Cyclone and other Israeli companies will continue their long tradition of producing F-16 airframe and system components.
All of the 50 F-16s will be two-seat versions powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine.
Deliveries of the new aircraft will begin in early 2003 and continue about three years. The term of aircraft deliveries will be extended until late in the next decade if Israel exercises the option for 60 additional F-16s.