The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) has decided to replace its Northrop F-5 and RF-5 fleet with Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds. All that remains to be determined is when the programme go-ahead is given, says Bob Elrod, vice-president of F-16 programmes with Lockheed Martin.

The RSAF has a requirement for around 100 aircraft to succeed its F-5s, although Elrod says that the initial order could be as low as 36 aircraft. An order announcement could be made later this year, but this could slip into 1999, according to Eldrod.

Speaking at the Singapore air show, Elrod was publicly bullish about F-16 programmes in the Asia-Pacific region, despite the serious economic downturn. Deliveries to Taiwan and South Korea are continuing, having reached around the halfway stage in terms of delivery numbers.

As far as Taiwan is concerned, Elrod says that the company is "-not aware of any funding issues. The programme is on schedule and on cost."

While Elrod is confident of substantial future F-16 orders, including for advanced variants, he admits that Lockheed Martin needs extra production orders this year "to avoid a production gap."

One of the company's best prospects is for the so-called Block 60 advanced variant on offer to the United Arab Emirates, to meet a strike fighter requirement. It is in competition with the Eurofighter EF2000 and the Dassault Rafale.

Source: Flight International