Aditya_V wrote:So Saudis got a little bit of the protection money to protect them from the Saudis
That is the peril of relying on a third party to fund advanced development (same was the case with UAE funding block 60 F-16). Boeing invested very little of its own money to develop and integrate the technological advancements of the F-15 Advanced Eagle (SA in Saudi inventory). Most of those changes were EMD programs funded partly or in some cases wholly by KSA for their program. As such, only the USAF has the right to use those without royalty payments while other users would have to pay a fee via Boeing. Same reason why Lockheed chose not to offer many of the advanced technologies from the F-16 block 60 as upgrades to block 70 customers. Taking the EW suite, or even many of the radar components directly would have been cost-prohibitive..So yeah it is rather amusing that Qatar has to pay a royalty to KSA for its F-15QA or find alternate sources for some of those elements. Similarly, it has had to pay for the advanced flat panel LAD cockpit it is getting by paying EMD fees to Elbit .
Aditya_V wrote:Whats also clear is Lockheed Martin is also moving away from the F-16 and its derivatives, F-15 will be exported to Tier 2 nations before F-35 is made available allies other than Israel, Japan, NATO after 7-8 years when US will start developing its 6th Gen platform.
I don't think any current F-16 user can afford (or would want) to recapitalize its fleet with F-15 Advanced Eagle derivatives. The F-15C is no longer in production and the E based advanced derivatives (SA, QA and EX) are in the heavy strike fighter class which is an overkill for most F-16 users. If you need it then yes but I don't see many current F-16 users needing that capability in the first place.
Outside of Taiwan, Turkey and Pakistan there are very few F-16 users who would be denied the F-35A.
https://www.defensenews.com/digital-sho ... -with-uae/
Aditya_V wrote:AMRAAM today for US is like what the sparrow was in the late 1980's/ early 90's. While USAF, USN, Israel, close NATO allies are moving towards to the AIM 260 series of missiles-in a few years its production will also be wound down.
AMRAAM production is not going anywhere for at least a decade (my estimate), perhaps even 15 years (Raytheon's estimate). The USAF and USN's current POR is structured till 2025/2026 at which time they will likely extend that by a few years till perhaps the end of the decade. Filling foreign orders, and derivatives will keep it going (beyond that as only a few nations have been approved for the AIM-120D with a vast majority of AIM-120C users still yet to do so), though nothing like the close to 1000 missiles (it fluctuates given a shared missile production line with other weapons) a year they churn out today. The F3R is currently developing a new signal processor and essentially overhauling the guidance section of the weapon and the ECCM upgrade roadmap for the USAF and USN itself extends to close to the end of the 2020's without any new feature or requirement added to it (which it will pick up along the way between now and then). New build AIM-120D's incorporating those changes in their totality won't begin deliveries for a few years still so there will be a long winding road to replace all USAF AIM-120C5's and earlier with AIM-120D F3R+ missiles.
One also cannot rule out another round of upgrades to the weapon down the road. The current USAF and USN AIM-120 D stock of around 2000 missiles is not adequate. There are about another 1000 missiles that have been put on contract but not yet delivered and the USAF/USN plan on having around 3000 AIM-120D's in service by the end of 2020. That too is not adequate given that by 2021/2022 ish virtually the entire F-15E, and F-15C fleet (that is left) along with the F-22 and F-35 fleet will be AESA equipped and capable of deploying missiles with longer range than the AIM-120C7. Even if they sustain current acquisition volumes they'll be at around 5000 AIM-120D rounds by the mid 2020's with a significant number of them being the F3R variants (eventually all will be upgraded to those). That is still 2-3K short of where they'd like to be IMHO so you could well expect small annual orders through the second half of the 2020' ( Ideally they would want 10K missiles comprising of AIM-120 D F3R+ and AIM-260 by the end of 2020s).
The Sparrow replacement was a clean and clearly demarcated (stopping buying one and moving entire contract to the other) because of a fundamental change in technology (going to Active MRAAM) and because while they put on a small program to show the F-16 could carry the Sparrow it was fundamentally going to be the AMRAAM that was its primary MRAAM and since the USAF was buying F-16's in very large numbers they made a clean transition.
The AIM-120D on the other hand is a perfectly fine MRAAM that is constantly being upgraded (hardware, software and ECCM) with plans to keep on doing so all through next decade. Its capability is significantly more than the AIM-120C7 it replaces and the USAF and USN MRAAM inventory is so large that they cannot wait for the AIM-260 to replace it all. They would have to attack this modernization from both sides i.e. use a combination of AIM-120D and AIM-260 to phase out older AIM-120 rounds in inventory while also upgrading the AIM-120C7 variants for ECCM etc.
Basically everything below the C7 will be retired and replaced with new built rounds (AIM-120D and AIM-260) while the C7 will be constantly upgraded with the last round of upgrades planned in the mid-2020's. It too will eventually be replaced, most likely by the AIM-260's as its production ramps up. A 2022 JATM IOC likely means a 2025-2027 Milestone-C (Full rate production decision) so the USAF/USN is unlikely to stop buying the AIM-120D at its peak rate until at least Milestone-C for the AIM-260. There are also 2 additional missile programs with at least one of them expected to be in production by the mid to late 2020's. Those will be the cheaper, shorter ranged interceptors likely aimed at expanding magazine, and more cost optimized shots against new target types (cruise missiles, AIMs, companion drones etc).