United Arab Emirates (UAE) air force's strike-fighter competition appears to have narrowed to a straight contest between the Lockheed Martin F-16 and the Dassault Rafale.

Lockheed Martin says it has been notified that the McDonnell Douglas F-15 has been de-selected out of the competition, and that just the F-16 and the Rafale are now being considered.

If true, it means that the Eurofighter 2000 is no longer a contender, although Eurofighter will neither confirm nor deny this.

The potentially massive order, for between 40 and 80 aircraft, could be worth as much as $9 billion with associated weaponry and support services. The aircraft will start to enter service at the turn of the century to replace the UAE's current fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000s and Mirage 5s.

Lockheed Martin says the Block 60-standard F-16s being offered are "very unique configuration" aircraft with upgrades and refinements to the radar, software and cockpit, as well as having extended range capability.

The company expects a decision "within the next few months". Both the F-16 and the Rafale are flying daily at Farnborough.

Eurofighter says only: "We never comment on potential sales and marketing campaigns".


Source: Flight Daily News