THE ROYAL JORDANIAN Air Force (RJAF) is to receive its first squadron of ex-US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16A/B fighters within the next 12 months.

An announcement by US President Bill Clinton covering the agreement was expected early in October, but was delayed. Despite this, sources say the deal will still go ahead soon.

The RJAF has also requested that a further 24 aircraft be made available from the USAF's F-16A/Bs now held in storage.

The agreement underlines the improving US-Jordanian relations in the wake of the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty and King Hussein's part in the defection of top Iraqi officials to Jordan.

The RJAF now operates 33 Dassault Mirage F.C/Es and 70 Northrop F-5E/Fs. The plan is to replace these with the F-16s.

At a recent meeting in Washington, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is understood to have offered King Hussein a deal whereby Israeli industry would be willing to upgrade the F-16s before delivery.

This offer, however, is unlikely to be taken up, ostensibly because the Jordanians have only a very limited budget for any upgrades to the aircraft.

The basic Falcon Up airframe life-extension programme will almost certainly be carried out in the USA before the aircraft are delivered to Jordan.

Source: Flight International