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Thursday, May 05, 2005

United Arab Emirates get world's best F-16

Who exactly is the enemy that the UAE is defending itself against with F-16s that are better than any in Israel's - and the U.S.' - air force?
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 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.