Bahrain has become the first country to acquire the latest version of the F-16 fighter jet following an agreement with the US Government in late 2017. The announcement follows a $1.12 billion contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp from the US Government to produce new F-16 fighter jets for the Royal Bahraini Air Force.
The F-16V Block 70 is the latest variant of the fourth-generation, multirole fighter. It improves upon previous models through the incorporation of technology and software unavailable when earlier blocks were manufactured, particularly the advanced AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array radar.
According to Lockheed, the radar “delivers greater situational awareness, flexibility and quicker all-weather targeting” and offers “digital map displays that can be tailored with slew and zoom features.”
The latest fourth-gen aircraft combines capability upgrades such as avionics architecture and structural upgrades to extend the life of the aircraft by more than 50 percent beyond that of previous production F-16s.
“We value our long-standing relationship with the Kingdom of Bahrain and look forward to beginning production activities on their first Block 70 aircraft at our facility in Greenville,” said Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 program. “This sale highlights the significant, growing demand we see for new production F-16s around the globe.”
The source described the sale to Bahrain as “Lockheed’s pass to keep its F-16 production line open for the next three to five years.”
In return, the Royal Bahraini Air Force is in a crucial need of upgrading its fleet to keep up with other Gulf nations, the source added. “It’s a win-win situation; Bahrain needs the F-16, and the F-16 needs Bahrain.”
This purchase allows Bahrain to keep pace with other regional competitors such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as deals for fighter jets in the Middle East are expected to eclipse $22 billion over the next decade, according to Derek Bisaccio, an aerospace expert with Forecast International. That figure could double if additional services such as spare parts, training and maintenance are included.
Source Credit: Defense News