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  • F-16s, IDEXes Past, And The General
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 1:42 PM on Feb 25, 2009

    The F-16 is still selling, as Graham's post below reminds us. But I read that post on the same day that I was at IDEX - a show that I last visited in 1995, because when I worked for Another Company, the London office usually did that - and also remembered that retired Major General Khalid al Buainnain, now a very big wheel in UAE defense, was then Colonel Khalid.

    Even then he was clearly a rising star, with ambitions to see the UAE with its own access to space surveillance, SIGINT and sophisticated weapons. At the time, he was managing the procurement of the Mirage 2000-9 and the UAE fighter competition that led to the F-16E/F.

    In 1995, though, the UAE had ambitions beyond the Block 60. What was then informally known as the F-16U looked like this:

    blog post photo
    LMTAS photo my foot. Pic by Bill Sweetman

    That's an F-22-based wing. Together with a stretched fuselage it boosted internal fuel capacity by 80 per cent. It also eliminated draggy multiple weapon pylons and made room for four semi-recessed AMRAAMs. That aircraft would have had range.

    Lockheed (not yet Lockheed Martin) wasn't officially releasing any images of the aircraft, but the program manager knew I was apt to be wandering around with a camera and accidentally left the model unsupervised. Around the same time, I was in his office at Fort Worth, where there were some even more exotic-looking designs with diverterless inlets and saw-toothed nozzles. Vectored thrust and a new engine - but based on the commercial CFM56-7 core - were possible future upgrades, and the jet would have happily supercruised with that engine.

    With Khalid pushing, the UAE was ready to go with it, on one condition (I learned much later):  that the USAF buy a wing of delta F-16s, so that they would not be alone with the new jet. But policy was already shifting towards JSF, and the Pentagon would not play.

    Well, as I wrote at the time:   

    With a single 180 kN engine, long range, multiple sensors and advanced avionics, the ultimate F-16 starts to look a lot like the Air Force's version of JAST.  "You have hit that right on the head," comments one non-Lockheed observer. "Do you want to replace the F-16 with something that goes Mach 2, does air-to-air and air-to-ground [the F-16U] or with something that doesn't have that level of performance and carries a lower payload?" 

    But apparently that was just what they wanted to do. On the other hand, if something untoward does happen to JSF, some dusty files in Fort Worth might suddenly get reopened.

    Tags: ar99, f-16, idex

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