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F-16E/F / F-16 Block 60 / Desert Falcon

The most advanced F-16 model in the world is the product of a direct commercial sale. It is the F-16 Block 60, developed for the United Arab Emirates. The aircraft's designation, F-16E/F, recognizes the major structural, avionics and propulsion enhancements in this practically all-new version of the Fighting Falcon. The last designation change, the F-16C/D, was introduced with the Block 25 version in 1984.

The F-16E/F resembles earlier F-16 aircraft in appearance only. Internally, the Block 60 has an all-new cockpit that features all-digital instruments and three 5x7-inch color displays. It is powered by a General Electric F110-GE-132 engine that produces 32,500 pounds of thrust. Additionally, the F-16E/F features a new avionics suite with highlights including a revolutionary Electronic Warfare (EW) system, the new APG-80 Agile Beam Radar (ABR) and a new Integrated FLIR Targeting System (IFTS), all provided by Northrop Grumman. The Block 60 has 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. This amounts to a 40 percent increase over the range of the current Block 50 F-16.
  • Internal forward-looking infrared targeting system mounted into the nose of the aircraft, which replaces the external pods on earlier F-16 models. This reduces drag and lowers the radar cross section of the aircraft, making detection by the enemy more difficult.
  • Agile-beam radar, which employs an active, electronically scanned antenna to achieve the wide bandwidth necessary to support the Desert Falcon's mission. The radar relies on a fixed panel of transmitters and receptors that can broadcast beams quickly and in every direction.
  • Electronic countermeasures suite with internal electroniccountermeasures and an electronic-warfare management system designed to foil Russian double-digit surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-10 and SA-12.
  • Advanced mission computer to enhance sensor and weapon integration.
  • Three five-inch by five-inch color displays in the cockpit and a helmet-mounted cueing system to improve situational awareness of the pilot.

Lockheed Martin provided commercial warranties andcommitted to delivering the first operational F-16E/Faircraft to the UAE in May 2004; actual delivery occurred in June 2004. The program plan for the F-16 Block 60 looked very much like the F-16A program plan of the mid-1970s. It featured phasing of the development work, procurement of long-lead items for production, and delivery of operational aircraft to the UAE even before the conclusion of system integration and flight test.

It would be easy to say that the F-16 is a mature aircraft and therefore the risk is acceptably low. However, a careful look at the proposed technologies, change of planform, addition of conformal fueltanks for extended range, alteration of the cockpit arrangement, and other features would lead an experiencedprogram manager to dispute that claim.

Even so, some critical aspects of the UAE program increase prospects for success. For example, Lockheed Martin has given its program manager total control overall aspects of his program. The entire program was fully funded, up front, by the client government. Within the price structure, the PM had a management reserve. He also had authority to allocate or reallocate budgeted resources across the entire program; he did not have toworry about keeping separate development, production,and O&M accounts. He had a technical baseline, complete with an agreed-to test matrix and criteria for suc-cessful completion of individual test events. His primary obligation was to deliver combat capability, as specified. He had authority to make system-level trade-offs that provide the specified performance capability. Most importantly, he had a funding stream matched to schedule, thus ensuring he would have the proper infrastructure, people, and parts.

The Block 60 aircraft had its first flight on Dec. 6, 2003. The contractor conducted 12 test flights in the first month, something achieved in few if any modern day aircraft programs.



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