UAE s F-16s Will Be Envy of USAF Pilots

Block 60 defensive electronics system is the first designed to thwart Russian-made 5A-10 and SA-12 missiles

The first of a type of foreign aircraft

sale that has worried U.S. military officials for years has finally been made. The U.S. is selling the United Arab Emirates a better aircraft, the Block 60 F-16, than any similar fighter flown by its own forces.

The UAE contract, which is worth up to $6,4 billion and includes 55 single-seat and 25 two-seat versions of the Block 60 F-16, completes an agreement originally signed between Lockheed Martin and the UAE in May 1998. Lack of U.S. government approval, however, delayed the pact for the past 22 months because of technology concerns about software codes for the fighter's advanced electronic warfare (EW) suite, as the UAE wanted the ability to alter the system's threat library (AW&STNov. 22, .1999, p. 22).

STILl PENDING is an associated $2-billion deal with Raytheon and other weapons makers for more than 2,000 AIM-120B Amraarhs, AIM-9M Sidewinders, Harms, Mavericks, GBU-12Paveway 2 laser-guided bomb kits and Harpoons.

U.S. Air Force and Navy planners say they understand the reality of making international sales to keep the cost of U.S. aircraft down, but most had always thought that the U.S. would fly the top-line aircraft with a few more capabilities than those sold abroad. That's not going to be the case after Block 60 F-l6s are delivered to the UAE, unless the U.S. scrambles to buy some of its own.

The Block 60 F-16 will have several features sure to be envied by U.S. pilots, said a Lockheed Martin official:

This artist's impression of a UAE Block 60 F-16 shows the conformal fuel tanks that fit over the junction of the fighter's wing and fuselage, offering more range with less drag.

An active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that produces a classified 70-80-mi. range against a 1-meter-square target. That's about 10-20 mi. better than the current top-of-the-line F-15C interceptor and three times better than the current USAF F-16. The longer range radar will make the F-16 a much more lethal platform for employing beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-120. Moreover, it employs frequency hopping for low-probability-of-intercept operation, a technique to slow detection by a foe.

An electronic warfare package that includes the most advanced electronic countermeasures and radar counter-counter-measures.

The aircraft's radar counter-counter-measures system is the first operational system with an "adaptive cross-polarization capability against coherent monopulse Doppler radars," the Lockheed Martin official said. Less technically, that means the Block 60 will have a defensive system especially designed to foil the most advanced

double-digit surface-to-air-missiles . Double-digit SAM systems include the 80-120-mi.-range, Russian-made SA-10s and SA-12s and the emerging S-400 family of missiles with an advertised range of up to 240 mi. The radar's electronic counter-countermeasures use spread-spectrum techniques to see through jamming. In all, the EW system offers 11 new or updated technologies for foiling radars and radar-guided missiles. However, the transfer of these techniques did not require the release of U.S. control over source codes for the EW or radar computers.

Since the UAE will absorb at least $1 billion in Block 60 F-16 development costs, Lockheed Martin hopes to reinterest the U.S. Air Force in buying some Block 60 fighters of its own. Currently, USAF is buying what is supposed to be its last 20 Block 50 F-16s for an active-duty squadron at Cannon AFB, N.M., dedicated to suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) in Fiscal 2003-0. However, there is an effort to get'the purchase of 12 fighters moved into Fiscal 2001. The accelerated purchase would allow USAF's 10th SEAD unit to go into service in Fiscal 2005, two years early, and would allow the Air National Guard to receive F-16Cs ahead of time, speeding retirement of the last F-16As by two years to Fiscal 2005.

The UAE deal could also bolster Lockheed Martins bid to win the ongoing competition in Norway, where it is pitted against the Eurofighter Typhoon (see next story). The U.S. company has offered the Norwegians both Block 50+ and Block 60 versions and now has a customer on contract for the latter ready to pay a portion of the development costs.

Dain M. Hancock, president of Fort Worth-based Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. (LMAC), said the F-16s for the UAE will be produced at the Plant 4 facility leased by the company from the U.S. Air Force. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2004 and continue through 2007.

The UAE order for 80 fighters—coupled with 30 for the U.S. Air Force, 24 for Egypt, 50 for Greece and another 50 for Israel—is projected to keep the F-16 production line operating for at least another seven years until introduction of the Joint Strike Fighter. As of late last week, UAE officials had not selected an engine to power the F-16s, but an LMAC official said a decision is expected "very soon." Pratt & Whitney and General Electric are offering increased-performance, derivative engines, designated as the F100-PW-232 and the F110-GE-132, respectively. Both powerplants are rated at 32,500-lb. static thrust at sea level.

ALL OF THE UAE's "Desert Falcons" will feature conformal fuel tanks installed at the juncture of the upper wing/fuselage.: The tanks have a capacity of 3,000 lb. and extend the fighter's range to about 800 naut. mi. Other upgrades inherent in the UAE's Block 60 airplanes include color cockpit displays as well as a new internal sensor suite and mission computer.

Northrop Grumman's Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector is responsible for supplying the F-16's agile beam fire control radar (ABR) and internal forward-looking infrared and targeting system {IFTS). The UAE also selected the company's integrated electronic warfare system for the airplane's EW suite.

A company official said the multimode ABR continuously searches for and tracks multiple targets, and allows the pilot to conduct air-to-ait search-and-track, air-to-ground targeting and terrain following simultaneously. The agile beam unit:features high-resolution synthetic aperture radar imagery and is twice as reliable as conventional, mechanically scanned radars, according to Northrop Grumman data.

The IFTS detects infrared images and provides the pilot with passive, long-range acquisition and tracking of airborne and ground targets, day or night. The system will be packaged as a low-drag installation. To compensate for humidity in the region, the Desert Falcon's IFTS will feature "mid-wave Flir technology," the official said. According to Northrop Grumman, it also allows pilots to view the imagery on a head-up display and performs laser designation and ranging for delivery of precision-guided weapons.