Egypt deal extends F-16 line into 2013

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Lockheed Martin has secured a key order as it seeks to extend F-16 production long enough to stay in the competition for a massive order by the Indian air force.

An agreement between the governments of Egypt and the USA on the sale of 20 F-16 Block 50/52s will likely extend production into 2013.

Lockheed confirms the agreement under the foreign military sale (FMS) process was signed on 24 December. The US government is likely to sign a contract with Lockheed shortly to build the F-16s.

Egypt's current inventory of about 220 F-16s is mostly powered by General Electric F110 engines. But a notice published by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in October indicates Egypt is considering both the Block 50's F110-129 and the Block 52's Pratt & Whitney F100-229.

 
© US Air Force
An Egyptian air force F-16C flies in formation with a US Air Force KC-135 tanker

The DSCA notice, which informed Congress of the potential sale, indicated Egypt could order as many as 24 F-16s. However, a Lockheed executive in November told Flightglobal.com the deal would be for only 20.

The sale also could include conformal fuel tanks, advanced targeting pods made by Lockheed or Northrop Grumman, the Northrop APG-68(V)9 radar and ITT ALQ-211 advanced integrated defensive electronic warfare systems (AIDEWS).

The pending contract from Egypt adds to a recent spike in F-16 sales after a two-year slowdown. Lockheed plans to deliver only 20 F-16s in 2010 and 2011, but as many as 40 in 2012. Deliveries in 2012 will include 24 signed by Morocco in early December, the remainder of Turkey's order for 30 and a portion of Egypt's backlog.

Lockheed executives have also noted that smaller orders for F-16s are in discussions with Greece, Iraq, Oman and Qatar.

But the long-term future of Lockheed's F-16 production line depends on India's competition for the medium multi-role combat aircraft contract for at least 126 fighters. Lockheed has proposed the F-16IN, a version similar to the United Arab Emirates' Block 60.