x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE in $100m F-16 fighter jet deal

Defence contractors are in line to win up to $100 million in maintenance and spare parts deals for the UAE Air Force's F-16 fleet.

One of six F-16 fighter jets the UAE deployed to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya lands at Decimomannu airbase in Sardinia.
One of six F-16 fighter jets the UAE deployed to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya lands at Decimomannu airbase in Sardinia.

The UAE is requesting as much as US$100 million (Dh367.3m) worth of maintenance and spare parts for its fleet of F-16 fighter jets, says a US defence agency.

The move is believed to focus on a general maintenance and sustainment contract relating to its existing fleet of fighter jets, which were recently put into operations in Libya to enforce a no-fly zone with Nato allies.

The US Defence Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) informed Congress the UAE was interested in a possible sale of support and maintenance of "classified and unclassified" F-16 fighter jet components.

The items include aircraft systems and munitions, spare and repair parts, technical documents, personnel training, communications equipment and "other related elements of programme support", it said.

The sale was recommended after the agency called the UAE "an important force for peace, political stability, and economic progress in the Middle East" and recognised the Emirates' "legitimate security and defence needs".

Although the announcement reported no company would serve as the prime contractor for the deal, the aircraft are manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The US aerospace giant recently partnered Sikorsky Aerospace Services and Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, to create a military aviation maintenance firm based in Abu Dhabi named Ammroc (Advanced Military Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Centre).

In 1999, the UAE signed one of the largest Middle East aerospace deals in history when it ordered 80 Lockheed Martin F-16s, worth an estimated $7 billion, that were technically more advanced than the version in use by the US Air Force. The improvements were developed after the UAE helped fund the expanded features to the tune of several billion dollars, according to reports.

The UAE also operates a fleet of Mirage 2000 fighter jets and has been engaged in discussions with Dassault Aviation of France over its Rafale fighter jet.

On March 27, six F-16 fighter jets from the UAE Air Force and Air Defence landed at an Italian air base in Sardinia to begin enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, marking one of the first foreign operations for the UAE's fleet of fighter jets.

The aircraft were followed by six Dassault Mirage 2000s the UAE also sent. On April 27, one of the UAE's F-16s crashed at the Italian air base.

The pilot successfully ejected and was not injured, according to reports.

igale@thenational.ae