Tim Ripley

Fighter manufacturers from America, Britain and France are still locked in a multi-billion dollar dogfight to win an order for 80 strike aircraft from the United Arab Emirates Air Force.

The contest, valued at $6-8 billion, has been going on for almost three years with little indication that the customer will make its selection soon.

Lockheed Martin is pressing hard to sell its advanced F-16U Block 60 Fighting Falcon, France's Dassault hopes to secure the first export customer for its Rafale and British Aerospace is offering the Eurofighter 2000.


Although all three participants are present in strength at Dubai '97, the Eurofighter is only here in mock-up form.

Providing strong top-cover for the fighter manufacturers are the precision guided weapon suppliers who hope their long-range products will be hanging off the wings of the UAE's new strike fighter.

There was a flurry of excitement when it emerged in September that BAe was offering a oil-for-aircraft deal to the UAE in the hope of recreating the success of its Al-Yamamah barter agreement with Saudi Arabia.

News then emerged that Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics Sector chief Micky Blackmore had been holding contract talks in London with UAE supreme commander Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan over the sale of 50 F-16s. France has struck back with an offer to provide an interim order of 27 Mirage 2000-9s, customised to the UAE's requirements to meet its needs until the Rafale is available. This offer involves new aircraft and the refurbishment of 10 ex-French Air Force airframes.

Some commentators have linked the French and US proposals, suggesting that the UAE has opted to buy current-generation aircraft and delay acquiring new-generation fighters until well into the next century.

Source: Flight Daily News