Oman orders second squadron of F-16s
The US Department of Defense has announced that Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $600 million fixed-price foreign military sales contract for the supply of 12 additional Block 50 F-16 C/D fighters (eight single-seat F-16Cs and four two-seat F-16Ds) to the Royal Air Force of Oman.
The order also covers the supply of associated support equipment and logistics services.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced a possible Omani F-16 deal in August 2010, when the order was expected to cover the supply of 18 Block 50 F-16s.
The Royal Air Force of Oman took delivery of its initial batch of 12 Block 50 F-16C/D fighters (eight single-seat F-16Cs and four two-seat F-16Ds) under the 2002 Peace A’sama A’safiya (clear skies) programme and these equipped No 18 Squadron at Thumrait from mid October 2005.
The F-16 order will have no effect on the Sultanate’s planned Eurofighter Typhoon acquisition, industry sources insist. BAE systems reiterated that: “Oman has stated its intention to acquire Eurofighter Typhoon and discussions with the government of Oman are on-going. While this work continues it would not be appropriate to make any comment on the number of aircraft being discussed or possible delivery timescales.”
Privately, senior Eurofighter sources seemed sanguine about the F-16 order. “Oman always intended to buy a further squadron of F-16s, so this is no surprise, and is entirely consistent with its ambitions to expand and modernise its air force. The Typhoon negotiations continue to make great progress,” a source said.
It is not even certain that the F-16 deal will alter Omani plans to keep its ageing Jaguars (which were recently re-winged) in service as long as support from India is available.
The Omani F-16 order comes only weeks after Iraq placed a follow-on order for 18 additional F-16s. These new orders will ensure F-16 production out to 2015.