I. Background: MENL - February 18, 2004
II. Current: Jerusalem Post - May 5, 2005
TEL AVIV [MENL] -- The Israel Air Force has quietly expressed frustration over its decision to accept a U.S.-origin radar for the new F-16I multi-role fighter.
Defense officials and military sources said the choice of Northrop Grumman's AN/APG-68[V]9 synthetic-aperture multi-mode radar has dismayed both the service and the Defense Ministry. They said an evaluation by Israeli air force pilots of the U.S. radar showed it to be inferior to an indigenous Israeli radar designed by Elta Electronic Industries. Israeli pilots flew the F-16I in test flights in 2003 in the United States.
"This was the most political decision ever made by the air force and we'll be paying for this for years to come," a senior officer said.
The military sources said the Defense Ministry agreed to a U.S. radar as part of the request for 102 F-16 Block 50 aircraft from the United States in 1999. The U.S. Defense Department refused to allow Israel to install the Elta SAR radar on the F-16, the staple of NATO air forces.
Just one year after Israel, the United Arab Emirates this week took delivery of the most advanced F-16 ever produced. The first batch of US-built 80 F-16 "Block 60" fighters landed at an official, but quiet ceremony in Abu Dhabi.
Neither the US nor the UAE announced the delivery. But reports from AFP as well as the UAE's Khaleej Times said the event took place on Tuesday and was attended by Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan. They did not specify the number of planes received.
The UAE is paying $6.4 billion for the 80 jets, produced by aerospace giant Lockheed Martin at its plant in Fort Worth, Texas.
These F-16s are more advanced than the newest Israeli F-16 I "Block 50+" and even any US F-16 model. It is one of the few weapon systems in the hands of an Arab state qualitatively superior to that in the Israeli arsenal.
The new F-16's major difference is the Northrop Grumman APG-80 multimode radar, for improved tracking of multiple targets. The Block 60 configuration is the most extensive change in the history of the F-16 program. Its unique features include new cockpit displays and a new mission computer.
The UAE F-16 will be called Desert Falcons. The delivery to the UAE marks the first time the US allowed its sale outside of NATO countries.
The Israeli F-16 Is were built with conformal fuel tanks developed and produced by Israel Aircraft Industries to give it extended range. Like the Israeli F-16 I, the UAE jets also contains components from other countries.
The UAE F-16 can just barely reach Israel without mid-air refueling. But should it ever be deployed closer in another Arab country, it would be a formidable foe for the IAF since it is technically an aircraft superior to the IAF's best.
The UAE signed the deal for the Block 60 in March 2000. Delivery had been scheduled for late 2004 and will take place over three years. There was no explanation for the delay.
The oil-rich UAE has embarked on an ambitious program to boost its defenses with modern weaponry after it watched Iraq swallow up Kuwait in 1990.
Nahyan, who is also the deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, was quoted as saying the delivery of the fighter was a culmination of the "decade-old and sustained efforts by the UAE to acquire a sophisticated combat aircraft that is adequately responsive to the defense needs of the 21st century.
"With the delivery of this installment, the capability of our armed forces will be significantly enhanced. This landmark event is a result of the sustained efforts by our political leadership to modernize our armed forces."
The ceremony was attended by Gen. Michael Moseley, vice chief of staff of the US Air Force.
Israel began receiving 102 F-15 Is in February 2004 as part of a deal worth $4.5 billion.
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis