Douglas Barrie/LONDON

Ari Egozi/TEL AVIV

LOCKHEED MARTIN is offering several F-16 options to Turkey in an attempt to derail Israel Aircraft Industries' (IAI) Turkish air force McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom upgrade programme, which has run into political and financial difficulties.

It is understood that Lockheed Martin has proposed a mix of new-build F-16C/Ds and ex-US Air Force F-16A/Bs, with around 20 of each type on offer. It is also understood to have offered Block 50 F-16C/Ds, modified to increase further the aircraft's air-to-ground capability.

The company is trying to convince the Turkish Government to reverse its decision to upgrade 54 F-4s and to purchase F-16s instead. The Lockheed Martin efforts are causing considerable concern for IAI, which won the $600 million F-4 upgrade programme in August 1995.

The IAI bid, however, is now ensnared in controversy over the choice of radar. The Turkish air force initially favoured US manufacturer Norden's multi-mode radar system, but was then persuaded that an Elta radar was more "suitable".

Turkey was also looking to Israel to assemble a favourable financial package, but so far an acceptable deal has not been agreed.

The Turkish Government had asked Israel for a two-year grace period and for an arrangement, allowing it to pay for the upgrade over a period of five to seven years.

Turkey's Tusas Aerospace Industries is also believed to have voiced concern over work-share on the F-4 upgrade. It licence-manufactures the F-16 for the Turkish air force.

The outcome of the recent elections in Turkey, are also understood, to have weakened the hand of the pro-Israeli lobby.

Source: Flight International