In the next instalment of my look back at the 10th Al Ain Aerobatic Show, my attentions are turned to Captain Khalid Al Jabri and the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defence (UAEAF & AD) Lockheed Martin F-16E Desert Falcon.
The Desert Falcon was the result of a partnership between Lockheed Martin and the UAEAF & AD, with the latter having invested some $3 billion into the type’s development. It is reported that should any other nations buy the F-16E/F, the UAE will be entitled to royalty payments.
The Block 60 airframe is based on the Block 50/52 F-16C/D and is considered to be the most advanced variant of the F-16 in the world, featuring the AN/APG-80 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, upgraded avionics, the GE F110-132 engine, and the conformal tanks (CFTs) that make it look so much meaner than the original F-16.
To date, the UAEAF & AD has received 80 F-16E/Fs and has a further 25 on order. One F-16E crashed in 2006, and a further aircraft was damaged during the Libyan civil war in 2011.
The aircraft are operated by three squadrons based at Al Dhafra AB. Display pilot Captain Khaled Al Jabri is assigned to 2nd Shaheen Squadron.
Prior to the 2013 Al Ain Aerobatic Show, my only previous encounter with the Lockheed Martin F-16E/F Desert Falcon had come at Tucson International Airport, Arizona, where the UAEAF & AD’s initial tranches of F-16 pilots had been trained with the 162nd Fighter Wing, Arizona Air National Guard since 2004. The use of that facility was brought to a close on 20 October 2010 and all Desert Falcon pilot training now takes place back home in the UAE.
Unlike Al Fursan and the Mirage 2000-9 solo, Capt. Al Jabri performed on both the Saturday and Sunday shows. As with Capt. Al Falahi in the Mirage 2000, the Desert Falcon was taxied in front of the grandstand and shut down following its performance each day.
And, attendees of the Sunday show were also treated to a similar sunset performance by Capt. Al Jabri and his wingman, in the spare aircraft, to that performed by the Mirage 2000s the previous day.
I’ll take a look at the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, next.