The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven sheikdoms--or emirates--which was known as the Trucial States when the region was under British administration. In January 1968, after the British government announced that its forces would be withdrawn from the Persian Gulf by the end of 1971, Trucial Oman and the sheikhdoms of Qatar and Bahrain initiated plans to confederate. However, Qatar and Bahrain decided on independent sovereign status. The former Trucial States, excluding Ra's al-Khaymah, announced the formation of the United Arab Emirates in December 1971. Ra's al-Khaymah joined the federation in February 1972. Abu Dhabi and Qatar are the two strongest members of the federation. Since independence, the oil of the Persian Gulf has made the UAE one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
The Khomeini regime in Iran and the Iran-Iraq War created significant danger for the UAE. In addition, there are long-running territorial disputes with Iran over the status of several islands in the Gulf. The intensity of such threats moved the UAE to join with Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait to form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981. The UAE joined Saudi Arabia and the other GCC states in condemning Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It provided facilities for Western military forces and contributed troops for the liberation of Kuwait in early 1991, and has become an important US ally in the Gulf.
Beginning in 1994, the UAE was the site of one of the most hotly-contested fighter contract competitions in recent years. In that year, the UAE announced a requirement for 80 modern fighter aircraft. The two major competitors for the contract were the Dassault Rafale and advanced versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon known loosely as "Block 60".
On May 12, 1998, the government of Abu Dhabi announced that it had selected the Block 60 F-16C/D with conformal upper-fuselage fuel tanks to replace the air force's remaining Mirage 5s. It was not certain at that time whether the UAE would choose the General Electric F110-GE-129 or the Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-229A. The aircraft would be equipped with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-68 fire-control radar with an electronically-scanned agile beam and would be provided with an integrated IRST system and laser designator. The UAE order would extend the F-16 order backlog well past 2005, and the selection of the Block 60 would make the plane much more attractive to customers such Greece, Norway, and Saudi Arabia.
However, the whole deal was stalled for a couple of years over questions about release of the source code for the Northrop Grumman radar and for the electronics warfare suite. In addition, there were some financial details that had to be worked out before the deal became final. There was some concern in Washington that if the deal were allowed to go through, it would give the UAE an F-16 variant with capabilities superior to those of USAF F-16s. There was always the possibility that the entire deal could fall through at any time, placing the entire Block 60 F-16 project in jeopardy.
However, on March 5, 2000, the UAE signed contracts for the purchase of 155 single-seat and 25 two-seat Block 60 F-16s. These planes would be named Desert Falcon. The problem over the release of the source has apparently been overcome, although it turned out that the UAE only wanted the ability to re-program the electronic warfare suite and did not actually want the source code itself. On March 14, it was announced that the powerplant would be the General Electric F110-GE-132 rated at 32,000 lb.s.t. Deliveries were scheduled to take place between 2004 and 2007.
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.
Since the delivery schedule for the Block 60 F-16s turned out to be two years later than had been originally planned, the UAE expressed an interest in acquiring 20 surplus Dutch F-16A/Bs. They would go through the MLU process before delivery and would be used for training until the Block 60 F-16s are delivered.
In February of 2015, the United Arab Emirates ordered a squadron of their F-16s to Jordan to particpate in strikes against the Islamic State, after the UAE had earlier suspended its involvement over fears for pilot safety in case of a downed plane.
Serials of Block 60 F-16E for United Arab Emirates:
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.