The F-16 Block 60

By Van Nederveen, Gilles | Aerospace Power Journal, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

The F-16 Block 60


Van Nederveen, Gilles, Aerospace Power Journal


Editor's Note: PIREP is aviation shorthand for pilot report. It's a means for one pilot to pass on current, potentially useful information to other pilots. In the same fashion, we intend to use this department to let readers know about aerospace-power items of interest. We intend to keep it flexible, so sometimes it may just call your attention to a recently published article in another journal; other times, we may provide in-depth coverage of a particular topic.

THE F-16 BLOCK 60 is the latest variant of the popular and widely sold F-16. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) ordered 80 aircraft-55 single seaters and 25 dual seaters-for $8 billion (for details, see http://www.lmtas.com/News/ Press/F16/f16pr000305.html). UAE is buying the most sophisticated version of the F-16 and is investing almost $3 billion of its money into research and development. Writing in the 13 March 2000 issue of Aviation Week &Space Technology, David Fulghum and John Morrocco observe that "this aircraft will be envied by USAF pilots." This sale will also mark the first time that the United States has sold a better aircraft overseas than its own forces fly.

Controversy has surrounded the most advanced version of the F-16 since we announced its sale on 25 May 1999. Some people object to contributing to an arms race in a volatile area, while others oppose the sale of a superior weapon system overseas when the US Air Force itself cannot afford it. To sample the different viewpoints, see the Conventional Arms Transfer Project at http://www.clw.org/cat/index.html and the Federation of American Scientists at http://www. fas.org. Good background data is available from other aviation-related sites, such as Air Forces Monthly at http://www.airforcesmonthly.com, Jane's International Defense Review at http://www. janes.com, and F-16 News at http://www.f-16.net/fl6news.html. For Department of Defense (DOD) information about the sale of the aircraft, associated weapons, and congressional notifications, see http://www.defenselink.mil/news.

The Buyer

UAE, actually seven sheikdoms on the western shore of the Persian Gulf (see http://www. use.org.ae), is trying to diversify its arms sources, as have other Persian Gulf states. In the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, it bought French Mirage 2000s, but a faction in the UAE military pushed for a US fighter. By playing the United States and its European competitors against each other, UAE and other Persian Gulf states have acquired sophisticated weaponry at relatively low cost. After eliminating other modern fighters, such as the Rafale, Eurofighter, and Russian Su-37, UAE chose the F-16.

A unique country sometimes referred to as the "Singapore" of the Persian Gulf because of its workforce and commercial hub, UAE must depend upon outside or Western support because its military is too small to defend against any regional threat. The lack of unity among the seven sheikdoms has divided the command of UAE forces, with the Ministry of Defense located in Dubai and the General Headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Because of its small population base, UAE must continue to rely on Pakistani and British contract pilots and officers to operate its air force.

Anthony Cordesman's Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE: Challenges of Security (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997) charts the growth of UAE's military and the current problems it faces as it tries to expand and modernize in the wake of Desert Storm. Cordesman also explains the complex relations of the entire Persian Gulf, such as the outstanding dispute with Iran over the ownership of the Abu Musa and Tunb islands in the Strait of Hormuz, occupied under the Shah of Iran in 1971 as British forces left the Gulf region in their "East of Suez" pullout.

The Aircraft

The F-16 Block 60, also known as the Desert Falcon, boasts the following features, which set it apart from the most modern Block 50 F-16s in the US Air Force inventory:

Conformal fuel tanks mounted above the wing root, which allow for a mission radius of 1,025 miles with no in-flight refueling. …

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