PAUL LEWIS / SANTIAGO
Air force is also mulling options on Lockheed Martin F-16A/B radar and avionics upgrade
Venezuela is asking Embraer and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to integrate the Elta EL/M-2032 radar into the Alenia/Embraer AMX instead of the Fiar/Tectelcom SCP-01 Scipio as part of its planned order for eight aircraft.
The Venezuelan air force is also considering different options to upgrade the radar and avionics of its Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs.
Integrating the EL/M-2032 with the AMX attack aircraft will require a new nose section for the larger Israeli radar, say industry sources. Venezuela regards the Brazilian/ Italian SCP-01 as inadequate for the role for which it intends to use the aircraft, but it plans to retain the Elbit cockpit avionics and weapons management system selected by Brazil for its AMX upgrade.
The move follows Italy's recent decision to drop plans to upgrade its AMXs, in what was to have been a joint programme with Brazil. Venezuela announced plans in 1998 to order eight AMXs, but Embraer says the contract has been signed only recently.
Venezuela is also looking at a EL/M-2032 variant for its 24 F-16s as part of IAI's proposed Air Combat Enhancement upgrade package. Other alternatives include a version of the Fiar Grifo, which Singapore Technologies Aerospace includes as part of its proposed Falcon One package. Both are options to upgrading the current Northrop Grumman APG-66(V)2 or replacing the system with the new APG-68(V)9, which would require US State Department approval.
Given past resistance to integrating non-US systems with the F-16, and compatibility mission system software upgrades for the fighter, along with the rocky relations between Washington DC and the Venezuelan administration of president Hugo Chavez, it is unclear if approval would be forthcoming.
The third element of the Venezuelan air force upgrade is the more limited refit of its 12 Dassault Mirage 50DV/EV fighters with a new Sagem inertial navigation system.
Source: Flight International