Economy

Oman wants to purchase Lockheed F-16s

Lockheed Martin will someday build the last F-16 fighter jet at its Fort Worth plant, but that day is still years away.

Lockheed could be close to landing another foreign order for F-16s after the Defense Department notified Congress on Tuesday that the government of Oman requested permission to negotiate to buy 18 planes, weapons and other equipment worth about $3.5 billion.

It would be Oman's second F-16 purchase after taking delivery of the first of 12 in August 2005.

Just a year ago Lockheed's F-16 order backlog was down to about 80 planes, and production was slated to end in 2012. But late last year, Egypt and Morocco each ordered 24 planes, extending the production line another year.

"I think we're into 2013, and 18 F-16s for Oman would extend the line until summer of 2014," Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said. The F-16 order backlog was 81 planes at the end of June.

The Oman deal still faces several hurdles. Congress has 30 days to veto the proposed sale. If that does not occur, the U.S. government would extend a formal offer to sell planes to Oman. Once that offer is accepted, Oman and Lockheed would negotiate terms of a sale.

The Block 50/52 model aircraft Lockheed is now building and delivering to most foreign customers is essentially on a par with the latest aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force.

In addition to the 18 planes, at cost of $60 million each, Oman would purchase weapons systems, radars, navigation and other electronics systems. It would also get upgraded components for its 12 existing F-16s.

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