Friday, May 1, 2009
Defense Chief May Have Fumbled F-16 Deal
Chile's defense minister is doing some backpedaling after prematurely announcing that a contract for 18 fighter jets was imminent. Once the remarks by Francisco Vidal came public, officials in Holland insisted the sale of the used F-16s was not a done deal, and other countries could still buy the planes. Vidal and air force commander Gen. Ricardo Ortega said the mess is just a misunderstanding. They just didn't realize that the Dutch parliament must be notified of the sale, and the U.S. government must clear the transfer. Still, some opposition leaders are calling for Vidal's head, especially if Chile ends up losing the deal. (Some sources told El Mercurio that Peru is one of the countries interested in the F-16s.) The $270 million contract is for surplus F-16s that have undergone modernizations, including an airframe upgrade. Included in the contract are spare engines, logistical support and training programs for the new planes plus another batch of F-16s acquired from Holland in 2006.