US defence equipment manufacturer Lockheed Martin has selected UK-based BAE Systems to provide flight controls to upgrade the UAE’s F-16 fighter aircraft.
Under the agreement, BAE Systems will provide the UAE’s F-16s with its advanced digital flight control computer.
The sub-contract with BAE Systems is understood to be part of the AED6.05bn ($1.67bn) main contract that Lockheed Martin signed with the UAE Defence Ministry (MOD) in November 2017 to upgrade its fleet of 80 F-16 fighter aircraft.
The initial order from Lockheed Martin includes design, qualification, integration, flight test, and certification for the flight control computer. This will be followed by production orders for approximately 100 units between 2020 and 2021 and for up to 315 units through to 2028, a BAE Systems statement said.
MEED understands the specialised equipment computes and transmits commands to all actuators throughout the aircraft, including rudders, stabilisers and spoilers to maintain controlled flight.
Development and production for the contract is expected to take place at BAE Systems’ site in Endicott, New York.
The UAE received its fleet of 80 F-16s in 2005. The upgrade is meant to keep them flying for the next 15 years, said Ishaq Saleh al-Baloushi, executive director at MOD’s Defence Industry and Capability Development.
The existing fleet of 80 jet fighters includes several replacements, although it is unclear how many of the original 80 aircraft have been lost and replaced.
One of the UAE’s jet fighters crashed in Yemen as recently as October 2017, while another crash, also in Yemen, was reported in March 2016.
The UAE’s F-16 E/F Block 60 are considered more advanced that the Block 50/52 used by the US Air Force. The UAE’s fleet is considered a lower-budget alternative to the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. It is understood that their performance figures and broad sensor array will keep them ahead of pending F-16 modernisations in other countries that include South Korea and Singapore.
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