BEIRUT – Bahrain is set to become the first country in the region to operate Lockheed’s F-16 Block 70 aircraft, in a move that will boost the Falcon’s production line.
Last November, Vice President Mike Pence announced the signature of a deal for the sale of 16 F-16s worth over $2.3 billion to the Gulf country, considering it a “big boost for American jobs and security.”
“We are pleased the Kingdom of Bahrain and the U.S. government have agreed to move forward with the sale of F-16 Block 70 aircraft for the Royal Bahraini Air Force,” said Rick Groesch, regional vice president of international business development at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
The F-16 Block 70 is the newest generation of Fighting Falcon. The core of its configuration (over the Block-50/52) is the AN/APG-83 active electronically-scanned array radar. 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.
Although the number of aircraft has been reduced from a total of 19 to 16 units due to cost reduction policy, the sale “would save the shrinking F-16 line,” a military source has disclosed.
The source – who spoke on condition of anonymity – 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 RBAF is in a crucial need of upgrading its fleet to be able to keep up with other Gulf nations, the source continued.
“It’s a win-win situation; Bahrain needs the F-16 and the F-16 needs Bahrain.”