For a long time, it was uncertain if there would be a Block 60/62 version of the F-16C/D. However, in 1994 the United Arab Emirates (UAE) indicated that they needed 80 long-range strike fighters. The UAE wanted the latest available technology incorporated into these planes, and they indicated that if the USA was not willing to release such technologies, they might consider such competitors as the Eurofighter and the Dassault Rafale.
In pursuit of the UAE contract, Lockheed Martin came up with a delta-winged design based largely on the F-16XL. Wingroot troughs could hold four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, and a thrust-vectoring General Electric F110 engine was proposed. The delta-winged F-16 was to carry an improved radar, an internal FLIR and laser designation system, and an improved cockpit with a much more advanced set of multi-function and liquid-crystal displays.
However, very early on Lockheed Martin began to develop second thoughts about such an advanced aircraft, and began to consider a more conventional design for the UAE. The UAE had indicated that they were reluctant to commit themselves to an untried aircraft, one which had no other customers and in particular one in which the USAF was uninterested. By this time, the Pentagon had indicated that they were interested in the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) project as a potential replacement for the F-16. Lockheed Martin was a contender for the JAST project, and since the delta-winged F-16 could outperform the JAST in virtually every aspect except stealth and for considerably less money, the company might end up competing against itself. The delta-winged F-16 project was quietly shelved.
Lockheed then proposed a Block 60/62 lot of F-16C/Ds for the UAE order. The Block 60/62 would be largely based on the earlier Block 50/52, but would have an internal targeting and navigation system similar to LANTIRN but with only the sensor heads outside the aircraft. However, the Block 60/62 designation would not be applied until the aircraft actually enter production.
Again, two alternative engines would be offered. The Block 60 would be powered by the General Electric F110-GE-129EFE (Enhanced Fighter Engine), which would offer 34,000 lb.s.t with possible growth to 36,000 lb.s.t. The Block 62 would be powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229A which offers 32,000 lb.s.t, with possible growth to 35,900 lb.s.t. Both of these engines are available with thrust vectoring.
The Block 60/62 will be equipped with a Northrop Grumman sensor suite that will be based on the APG-68(V)5 radar. It is an integrated system that will have an internal targeting and navigation system similar to LANTIRN but with only the sensor heads outside the aircraft. The Northrop Grumman AN/APG-80 Agile Beam Radar (ABR) will be provided which will have an active array with a large number of transmit/receive modules This beam can be steered almost instantaneously, making it possible to interleave various radar modes. For example, the radar could search for surface targets and do terrain-following while simultaneously searching for airborne threats.
The cockpit will have the backup electromechanical instruments removed, and three full-color displays will be added.
An attempt will be made to use commercially-available products such as PowerPC and Pentium processors, and the Ethernet databus will be used.
After two years of negotiations (including a controversy of whether computer software codes would be released), the UAE signed contracts on March 5, 2000 for 55 single seat and 25 two-seat Block 60 F-16s. These planes would be known as Desert Falcon. On March 14, it was announced that the powerplant would be the General Electric F110-GE-132, an uprated version of the existing F-16 engine which can deliver 32,000 lb.s.t.
Norway has also expressed an interest in the advanced Block 60 F-16. The RNoAF will require a modern multi-role fighter as it transitions between its F-16 MLU aircraft and the future JSF. Greece and Israel have expressed interest in the Block 60 as well. The advanced F-16 faces stiff competition for these export orders from the Eurofighter and the Dassault Rafaele. However, at the moment, it does not appear that the USAF will itself be interested in a Block 60 F-16, since the JSF is scheduled to replace the F-16 beginning in 2008. This is, of course, subject to change if the JSF is delayed or turns out to be more expensive than expected.
The planned under-nose integrated FLIR targeting system (IFTS) has been replaced by a new podded FLIR mounted on the intake hardpoints. Apparently, there were problems in achieving the promised performance with the original layout. The Northrop Grumman AAQ-32 targeting FLIR and laser designator has been repackaged in a new station. However, the original wide-area navigation FLIR housing above the nose will still be there. The Northrop Grumman APG-68(V)5 agile-beam radar has been redesignated APG-80. The Block 60 aircraft will be capable ob delivering the EGBU-24 Paveway III, the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), and the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD). In addition, it will be able to carry the AGM-88 HARM, the AIM-9M Sidewinder, and the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The Block 60 also includes new conformal fuel tanks which significantly extend the aircraft's range, with less drag than underwing drop tanks.
In 2003, the Block 60 was redesignated F-16E/F, in recognition of the major structural, avionics and propulsion system advancements, which make the Block 60 a practically new version of the F-16. They are also known as "Desert Falcons", in recognition of their first customer.
The first of 80 Block 60 F-16s for the United Arab Emirates Air Force made its maiden flight at Fort Worth on December 6, 2003. It bore the serial 3001 and wore the civil registration of N161LM. Flight testing by Lockheed Martan began in early 2004. Training of UAE pilots began in September 2004 at Tucson, Arizona. The first group of pilots completed their training in April 2005. The Deliveries to the UAE began in May of 2005. All 60 of the aircraft have been delivered, and all pilot training is now in the UAE. Since the USAF has as yet announced no plans to acquire Block 60/62 F-16s, this gives the United Arab Emirates a more advanced fighter than those currently serving with the USAF.
Serials of Block 60 F-16E:
00-6001/6055 Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 60 Fighting Falcon MSN RE-1/RE-55. Redesignated F-16E. For United Arab Emirates as 3026/3080 6001 made first flight Aug 6, 2004 bearing civil registration N60019. 6003 made first flight Sep 13, 2004 as N60066. UAE serial will be 3028 6016 (RE-16) seen at Fort Worth, TX Apr 22, 2005 in full UAE colors with serial 3041. 6018 (RE-18) noted at Fort Worth, TX Apr 22, 2005 with test registration N6011C. Will be 3043 with UAE AF. 6036 noted as CC-227 with 78th FS Oct 2002. 6027 (MSN RE-27, UAE 3052) test registration was N60019. Crashed near Al Ain AP, UAE Jan 9, 2006 while practicing for Al Ain 2006 Aerobatic Show. While attempting low recovery from loop, hit ground tail first at high angle of attack with high sink rate and in full afterburner, bounced once and crashed. Pilot ejected at top of bounce but severely injured as parachute failed to deploy fully. Cause of loss was an engine compressor surge at too low an altitude for recovery to be effected. 00-6056/6080 Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 60 Fighting Falcon MSN RF-1/RF-25. Redesignated F-16F. For United Arab Emirates as 3001/3025 6056/6058 allocated civil registrations N161LM, N162LM, N163LM. These registrations were all cancelled Aug 23, 2004, presumably upon delivery to UAE. 6056 carries UAE serial 3001 00-6081 Lockheed Martin F-16C-60-CF Fighting Falcon Bore civil registration of N16EX. Redesignated F-16E. For United Arab Emirates as 3081, replacement for 3052 which crashed Jan 9, 2006.