The US Air Force has signed contracts for additional Boeing F-15Es and Lockheed Martin F-16Cs that will help both aircraft to remain viable contenders for future domestic and export fighter sales.

Boeing has received a $227 million contract for three F-15Es for delivery between May and October 2002.

This restarts the F-15 line and includes an option for up to two more aircraft, if the USAF can find the funds. Congress had allocated funds for five aircraft, but the production hiatus pushed the price up.

Lockheed Martin has received a $107 million contract for nine Block 50 F-16Cs, with an option for a tenth, for delivery beginning in March 2002. They are the first of 30 the USAF plans to buy.

The air force, meanwhile, has stepped up interest in the possible retrofit of up to 450 Block 50 F-16s with a derated version of the General Electric F110-132 engine being developed for United Arab Emirates Block 60 F-16s.

GEF110 programme manager Tom Maxwell says the USAF will second observers to the F110-132 development programme, although it is not contributing funds. The -132 is rated at 32,500lb thrust (145kN), compared with 29,000lb for the current -129.

Speaking at the International Gas Turbine & Aeroengine Congress in Munich, Germany, Maxwell said the USAF is interested in a so-called "-132A" derated to 29,000lb. This would reduce support costs dramatically by extending the interval between major overhauls by 50%, to 6,000 cycles. Deliveries of the -132 to the UAE are to begin in August 2003.

Pratt & Whitney is developing a more powerful version of its competing F100 engine, producing up to 34,000lb thrust. The F100-232 is being offered for both the F-15 and the F-16. Potential customers include Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Source: Flight International