The United Arab Emirates is negotiating a direct commercial deal with Lockheed Martin for the sale of 30 F-16E/F Block 61 Desert Falcons to bolster its fleet of about 80 F/-16E/F Block 60s already in service.
The negotiations were revealed in a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) request for about US$270 million worth of equipment as part of the sale but which needs US Government approval to be released.
The F-16E/F is the most advanced version of the venerable fighter currently in service, and features an APG-80 AESA radar, an internal ASQ-28 Internal FLIR and Targeting System which features an infra-red search & track (IRST) functionality, GE F110-132 engines, conformal fuel tanks, and advanced electronic warfare and communications systems. It is unclear whether or how the Block 61 aircraft differ from the original Block 60 batch of Desert Falcons which began entering service in 2006, and which are visually distinguished from other F-16 models in having a wider and slightly flatter radome to accommodate the AESA radar, and the IRST ‘ball’ just in front of the cockpit.
Development of the initial F-16E/F was funded solely by the UAE, and that model has formed the basis for Lockheed Martin’s F-16I offering which lost out to the Dassault Rafale in India, and the latest F-16V model which the company is now marketing.