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UAE to take delivery of first of 80 F-16s during 2004

February 17, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The United Arab Emirates will take delivery of a first batch of the latest US-built F-16 jet fighters before the end of this year, after a long delay due to technical and logistic reasons.
"The UAE will start receiving the first batch of the 80 fighters gradually before the end of this year," the commander of the Air Force said.

Major General Khaled Mubarak al-Bu Ainan gave no details of the package but defence sources said it is worth nearly $6.4 billion, covering spare parts, training, maintenance and logistic support.

The Gulf federation started upgrading two airforce bases last year to cope with the delivery of the sophisticated, multi-role "block 60" fighters purchased from the United States.

The official said the work at the base at Al-Minhad outside Dubai was not scheduled to be completed until 2005 while at Al-Dhafra, in Abu Dhabi emirate, the work would not be finished until the end of 2004.

The contract was signed in Washington in March 2000 by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

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

The Desert Falcon will have special fuel tanks for extended range, new cockpit displays, a new mission computer and other advanced features including US Northrop Grumman radar for improved tracking of multiple targets.

General Electric (GE) won the contract worth more than 400 million dollars to supply the engines for the fighters.

Missile program

The United States has also approved a program to support a United Arab Emirates's missile program.

The Defense Department has awarded Raytheon Peninsula Systems a $5 million contract for technical assistance to support the UAE's Honing All the Way Missile System Program. The program is one of several UAE missile programs being supported by the Pentagon.

In October 2002, the UAE Air Force signed an agreement for the procurement of Raytheon's AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. These missiles were meant to equip the new F-16 fleet of the UAE.

Officials said the latest Pentagon award will be conducted at Raytheon's facility in West Andover, Mass. They said the contract is expected to be completed by the end of 2005.