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. UAE takes delivery of first F-16s
ABU DHABI (AFP) May 03, 2005
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) took delivery Tuesday of the first batch of an order for 80 F-16 fighters from the United States, estimated to cost 6.4 billion dollars, the official WAM news agency reported.

It did not specify the number of warplanes received at an official ceremony attended by Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

The UAE signed a contract for the sophisticated F-16 Falcon fighters built by Lockheed Martin Corp in March 2000 for delivery that was due to have started at the end of 2004 and run through 2007.

In March 2003, the Gulf state launched work to upgrade two airforce bases to cope with the deliveries of the multi-role "Block 60" fighters.

Oil-rich Abu Dhabi has had logistical agreements with the United States since the 1991 Gulf War which have seen US aerial refuelling tankers and C-130 transporters use UAE facilities.

The Desert Falcon will have special fuel tanks for extended range, new cockpit displays, a new mission computer and other advanced features including US Northrop Grumman radar for improved tracking of multiple targets.

It was the first such sale outside NATO countries and followed the UAE's purchase of 30 French Mirage 2000-9 combat planes in November 1998 as part of a self-reliance policy.

General Electric (GE) won a contract worth more than 400 million dollars to supply the engines for the fighters.

In the wake of the 1991 Gulf War to drive Iraq from Kuwait, the UAE launched an ambitious defence program which included the purchase in 1994 of more than 400 Leclerc tanks from the French firm GIAT.

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