Initial Lot 1 fighter to be delivered in 2004 with Block 50 features, plus EW suite and advanced cockpit and radar

Lockheed Martin has revealed more details about the planned iterative fielding of the F-16C/D Block 60 for the United Arab Emirates, starting with the initial Lot 1 aircraft in late 2004 and culminating in full operational capability by 2007. The UAE, meanwhile, is delaying the selection of a helmet-mounted display (HMD) until development of candidate systems is complete.

The first Block 60 fighter is to be rolled out towards the end of next year in a Lot 0 configuration. It will be followed about 12 months later by delivery of the initial Lot 1 aircraft. "It will have all the capability of the Block 50, plus an EW [electronic warfare] suite, advanced cockpit and radar," says John Bean, Lockheed Martin vice-president Block 60 programme.

Flight testing of the Block 60's Northrop Grumman APG-80 Agile Beam Radar and AAQ-32 Integrated FLIR and Targeting System (IFTS) is due to begin in two months using the avionics manufacturer's BAC One-Eleven testbed. The planned new IFTS "podlet", which will rely on the fighter for power and cooling, will then be fitted to an F-16 trials aircraft for further testing.

The Lot 2 fighter will follow in early 2006. Aside from being cleared to carry additional weapons, this will have advanced EW modes and terrain-following radar capabilities. The Northrop Grumman Falcon Edge EW suite will provide adaptive jamming as well as long-range detection and geo-location of emitters allowing for destruction, rather than suppression, of air defences.

"The greatest technical stretch is the internal EW system, followed by the radar. There are challenges and there have been bumps along the road in terms of technical maturation, but we're on schedule," says Bean. Also in development for the aircraft is a new Raytheon fibre-optic towed decoy.

Lot 3 is to be deployed by 2007 and will include BAE Systems' TERPROM digital terrain avoidance and navigation system, the use of which will be blended with the terrain-following radar to lower the probability of detection. Another possible Lot 3 system will be an HMD, but no decision has been made between the US Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System and BAE's Eurofighter system. "We'll wait for development to complete and see how that evolves," says Bean.


Source: Flight International