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F-16Vs to the rescue of Bahrain's age concern

Posted 25 April 2018 · Add Comment

Bahrain is to recapitalise its ageing fighter force with the purchase of 19 new-build Block 70 F-16Vs and via the upgrade of its 20 surviving Block 40 F-16C/Ds to the same standard.

Bahrain originally acquired 12 aircraft (including four two-seat F-16Ds) under the Peace Crown programme in 1990, and received 10 more (all single-seaters) under Peace Crown II in 2000. Two aircraft have been lost in service, the most recent in December 2015 while supporting the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.
The aircraft are used as multi-role tactical fighters – providing air defence armed with Sidewinder and AMRAAM missiles but also able to fulfil ground-attack duties using 500lb GBU-12 and 2,000lb GBU-10 laser-guided bombs, TV-guided AGM-65B and IR-guided AGM-65G Maverick missiles. Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-14 Sharpshooter low altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night (LANTIRN) targeting pods can also be carried.
Bahrain has been seeking further F-16s for some time and a sale of up to 19 further aircraft was submitted to the US Congress for approval in September 2016, though the White House blocked this until it saw progress on human rights issues after the protests of 2011.
Finally, in September 2017, the US State Department approved the sale of 19 Block 70 Lockheed Martin F-16V aircraft to Bahrain, though different sources gave different numbers of aircraft, varying from 16-22.
Approval was also given for a deal to upgrade the existing fleet of 20 Bahraini F-16 aircraft to the same standard under the designation F-16V. The two separate contracts were valued at a combined $3.86 billion.
The Block 70/F-16V configuration includes the AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which leverages technology from the F-35’s AN/APG-81, and an automatic ground collision avoidance system (GCAS). The new variant has a 50% longer airframe life (12,000 hours, rather than 8,000 hours) and addresses some obsolescence (diminishing manufacturing sources) issues.
The F-16 production facility will be transferred from Fort Worth, Texas to Greenville, South Carolina, in order to make room for the expanding F-35 Joint Strike Fighter production line.
The Bahraini order will take F-16 production out to 2022, facilitating further exports. Lockheed is currently pursuing F-16 sales in Indonesia and Colombia, Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Austria and Poland, while the F-16V upgrade has been sold to Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Greece.
 

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