by: Matthew Quiroz [ ]
In September 1996, the government of the United Arab Emirates notified Lockheed Martin that the F-16 and the Rafale, produced by the French Dassault company, had been selected as final candidates in the UAE's consideration of a new fighter aircraft. The McDonnell Douglas F-15 had been officially eliminated from the competition. Lockheed Martin had offered a range of F-16 configurations for consideration during the UAE's fighter evaluation process. The configuration considered at that time was designated Block 60, and incorporates the F-16ES's conformal fuel tanks and internally mounted FLIR. Since the Block 60 has only been offered to the UAE (as the F-16U (not official)), all development costs have been paid for by the United Arab Emirates. The UAE have linked a potential order to the availability of the AIM-120 AMRAAM. On November 22nd, 1997, the United Arab Emirates declared the fulfillment of an offset requirement was a prerequisite for awarding the lucrative fighter deal.
On May 12th, 1998, the government of the United Arab Emirates announced that it had selected Lockheed Martin's new F-16 Block 60's as its advanced fighter aircraft. The total program included 80 aircraft (55 C's and 25 D's). The order, the first for this model, will secure some 30,000 US jobs. The deal would make the UAE a key player in the arms market for years to come, if not also the developed world's largest weapons importer - a post held by Saudi Arabia for years. As it appeared however, announcement of the deal had been made prematurely by US officials. During the first week of December 1998, a high-ranking United Arab Emirates military team visited the United States to discuss technical differences blocking the USD $7 billion deal. The deal was blocked in recent months with Abu Dhabi insisting on full control over source code for the F-16 Block 60 and its weapons systems.
Although oil-rich Abu Dhabi, slowly emerging as one of the worlds largest arms importers, has not officially said it would seek other alternatives if its requirements are not met, it has reopened talks with competitors who in May lost out to the most advanced F-16, the Block 60. The UAE's main arms procurement officer, Chief-of-Staff General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zaid al-Nahayan, was due to go to the United States in late October to move the deal ahead but his visit has been delayed due to the differences. Instead, the UAE again approached Dassault Aviation, which was in the running with its Rafale. The delay in the F-16 program has again revived hopes for the Eurofighter advocates.
Ultimately, the UAE and the US reached an agreement and the deal for 80 aircraft was signed. On December 6th, 2003, the first UAEAF F-16 Block 60 made its maiden flight from Lockheed's Fort Worth facility, with Lockheed Martin F-16E/F chief test pilot Steve Barter at the controls. The aircraft's designation, F-16E/F, recognizes the major structural, avionics and propulsion enhancements in this practically all-new version of the Fighting Falcon.
The UAE will take delivery of a first batch of F-16E/Fs in 2004. The Gulf federation started upgrading two air force bases last year to cope with the delivery of the Block 60 aircraft. UAE pilots and personnel will be trained in Tucson, AZ. A number of Block 60 aircraft will be based at Holloman AFB for further testing. **
** Per F-16.net
The KitWhen I laid eyes on the box art of this latest offering of the F-16, I was thrilled to see the subject. There is just something that is so menacing looking about the UAE Vipers. All the additional lumps and bumps and antennas give the plane a true predatory look. With the re-issue of the F-16D kit there were some additional sprues tossed in for good measure along with some new-tool sprues allowing us to build the Israeli Air Force's F-16I Sufa. When I saw these extra sprues, it wasn’t hard to see that other interesting variants of the F-16 would be following. Sure enough, we have the consummate rendition of the Viper - the F-16F.
This kit is molded in Hasegawa’s usual light gray styrene on eighteen sprues with a single sprue for the clear parts. Panel lines are recessed, but are a bit softer in detail than the Tamiya and Kinetic kits sitting on my shelves. That should not dissuade one from building this kit, its still Hasegawa quality inside the box. Construction takes place over thirteen easy to follow steps. Parts are provided for a standard Block 52 F-16D that was previously mentioned, along with an additional six sprues for this particular variant. Suffice to say there are a lot of parts for this kit, and some others that can be used for earlier late block Vipers. A few sprues require the use of just one or two small parts leaving the builder with plenty of extras for the spares box.
I found the kit “office” to be great right out of the box. Others may wish to substitute it with a resin offering; builders choice. Options include two crew figures if you are so inclined to man the previously mentioned office. The canopy can be posed open or closed to show off the cockpit and/or crew figures. Items included that are for the “F” variant include the large mouth intake, GE-F110 exhaust, dorsal spine, conformal fuel tanks, IFF antennas, APX-113 IFF antennas and updated missile rails to be used on stations 1,2,8,9 for the AIM-120 and AIM-9 missiles. While the GE-F110 exhaust is essentially correct, the Block 60 exhausts have a slightly different pattern on the “Turkey Feathers”. Extras for the spares box are a small mouth intake, Pratt and Whitney F100 exhaust, GPS dome, and various additional antennas. Options provide for opening the speed brakes, installing the canopy either raised or closed and use of the crew ladder or not.
Some areas to be aware of include the assembly of the APX-113 antennas. They are molded individually so it is up to the builder to get them aligned and evenly spaced; something that could prove tricky. Some items I noticed were “off” were the landing gear. The kit features the standard landing gear found on earlier F-16’s and not the beefier gear designed for the additional weight of these heavy hitters. While Hasegawa provided the bulged gear doors and beefier tires, the gear legs themselves are the standard fare found on earlier releases. This includes the front gear as well. It should feature a larger front tire and fork. There should be a slight bump in the intake trunk caused by the top of the nose gear well so it will accommodate the larger tire of the nose gear. Good images of this area can be seen on F-16.net which has an excellent photo gallery of Vipers from around the world. The above mentioned areas are pretty minor stuff really, as once built it will still look like an F-16…at least to me. Maybe we can look forward to some aftermarket gear legs in the future.
It was no surprise to me when I saw that there were not a lot of weapons included with this kit. Your basic missiles and fuel tanks is all you get. If you want more exotic stores for your Viper, you’ll have to purchase them separately or scavenge them from one of your other kits you may have on the shelves. The Kinetic and Tamiya kits come with a wide assortment of weapons to choose from; possibly enough to outfit this war-bird. What is included is a single 300 gallon fuel tank, two 370 gallon wing tanks, one baggage pod, a pair of AIM-120’s, AIM-9’s and a single AN/AAQ-32 IFTS (Internal FLIR Targeting System)
MarkingsMarkings are provided for four aircraft and feature a wrap around camouflage scheme of Gray (FS36320 and Light Gray FS36495) Markings are included for the following planes:
• F-16F, 00-3001, UAE Air Force
• F-16F, 00-3005, UAE Air Force
• F-16F, 00-3008, F-16 OCU, AZ ANG, Tucson AZ
• F-16F, 00-3010, F-16 OCU, AZ ANG, Tucson AZ
The decals are well printed, in register and include maintenance stenciling, but look a wee bit thick compared to other manufacturers. Hopefully they are better than Hasegawa decals of days gone by. Paint call outs are listed for GSI Creos Aqueos Hobby Color and Mr. Paint colors.
ConclusionThis is a nice offering of the ultimate F-16. While it has a few short comings they are nothing that should be a game stopper for the average modeler wanting to build a representation of this awesome machine. Those seeking perfection will have a little work ahead of them in correcting the landing gear short comings. Hasegawa has done an excellent job in bringing us the pinnacle of F-16 fighters and with all the additional parts the builder has a good start on converting other Vipers in their collection.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.