The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has cleared Lockheed Martin to immediately begin delivering the first three F-16 Block 60 fighters, says Lockheed Martin Aeronautics president Dain Hancock.

In mid-July, says Hancock, the company finished flight tests on the three aircraft, which have been upgraded to the Standard 1 configuration. The schedule was approved after the UAE reviewed the test results.

The deliveries will begin nearly eight months after the first flight of the F-16 Block 60 in the Standard 0 configuration. That is the baseline for the initial delivery at Lockheed Martin's facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The aircraft are then upgraded to Standard 1 at the plant before being ferried to the UAE.

Two further upgrades are software changes and will be completed in-country.

The UAE ordered 80 F-16 Block 60s for $8 billion in 2001. The country is scheduled to receive its first squadron of aircraft by the fourth quarter of this year.

Lockheed Martin has another 251 F-16s of all blocks on order until 2008. The Block 50/60 family is expected to draw another 100-200 new orders before production closes in 2012, which is the year the first Lockheed Martin F-35 enters service with the US Marine Corps, says Hancock.

Source: Flight International