Israel is talking to Lockheed Martin about taking up 60 F-16I options included with an order for 50 fighters last year. A deal would extend production by two years. The news comes as the manufacturer clears a reconnaissance pod and further weapons for the F-16.

Israel has until September 2001 to firm up the options. There are indications they may do so before the end of this year, says Bill Anderson, Lockheed Martin vice- president F-16 business group.

Lockheed Martin hopes to keep the F-16 in production until 2010. Recent sales to Greece, Israel and the United Arab Emirates totalling 180 aircraft will continue production until mid-2006. Israel's options would take that to 2008, beyond the delivery date for the first low rate production Joint Strike Fighter.

The US Air National Guard plans to equip five F-16C/D squadrons with the new Lockheed Martin Fairchild Systems Theater Airborne Reconnaissance System (TARS). In addition, the Lockheed Martin Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser and the 900kg (2,000lb) EGBU-27 precision bomb have been cleared for the F-16. The EGBU-27 has laser and satellite global positioning guidance.

Source: Flight International