May 21, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday said it awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a $279.9 million contract to pay for 10 F-16 fighter jets ordered by Chile under a deal first signed in March 2002. The money covers the first 14 months of work on the warplanes at Lockheed's plant in Fort Worth. It is the first sale of advanced U.S. warplanes to South America since the 1970s.
The Air Force said the deal represented a modification of an earlier contract given Lockheed to allow preparatory work on the F-16C/D block 50
aircraft while it finalized the details of the contract with Chile
. They are powered by the General Electric F110-GE
-129 engine, which is being procured under separate commercial arrangements.
The Air Force gave few details about the contract, but said work on the contract would be completed by December 2007.
Chile signed a preliminary $660 million contract for the fighter jets with the U.S. government in March 2002 but talks have dragged on until this week, when Lockheed officials in Chile said the company would begin building the F-16s in August.
Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said the Air Force contract covered just the actual airplanes, not the training, ground maintenance, initial weapon supply and spare parts covered in the larger deal negotiated between the Air Force and Chile.
He said the agreement had been approved by the U.S. government and the deal did not require further ratification by Congress.
The U.S. Defense Security and Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, notified lawmakers in June 2001 that it planned to sell the jets and two KC-135 tankers to Chile.