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  • PICTURE: Israel to advance F-16, Black Hawk upgrades

PICTURE: Israel to advance F-16, Black Hawk upgrades

The Israeli air force is to enhance the combat effectiveness of its 125 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fighters, to modify its Sikorsky UH-60 utility helicopters for attack duties by launching the Armed Black Hawk programme.

Israel's F-16C/Ds are to receive the same avionics equipment integrated with its new-generation F-16Is, with this intended to boost commonality and allow the aircraft to remain in use until at least 2020.

The air force says the upgrade, which has already undergone flight test using an F-16D, will also enable the older aircraft to carry new weapons slated for integration with its eventual fleet of 102 two-seat F-16Is, more than half of which are now in service.

Likely beneficiaries of the upgrade include Elbit Systems' Elisra and Elop subsidiaries and Israel Aerospace Industries' Elta Systems division, with the modifications likely to be conducted by the air force's 22 depot.

Israel opted to launch the Armed Black Hawk programme after cutting short a programme to upgrade and buy new Boeing AH-64A/D Apache attack helicopters last year.

 © Sikorsky

Work will start in September involving Elbit's Cyclone subsidiary, with a prototype aircraft scheduled to undergo flight testing from April-May 2008.

The modified Black Hawk will carry command and control systems, electronic warfare equipment and Rafael Spike-ER air-to-surface missiles, and be capable of striking targets from a range of up to 8km (4.3nm).

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