The Royal Bahrain Air Force (RBAF) will receive its first Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 jet fighters by the first half of 2024, according to a Breaking Defense report, citing an air force official.
The delivery, part of a $1.1-billion contract signed in 2018, was originally scheduled to begin between mid-2022 and late 2023.
However, RBAF commander Shaikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Khalifah explained that pandemic-related problems hampered production, pushing delivery back by nearly two years.
Lockheed Martin Vice President Randall Howard said the production rate of the F-16 Block 70/72 will increase significantly throughout 2023 as governments ease COVID-19 restrictions.
Bahrain’s future combat aircraft will first be delivered to the US government in 2023 before reaching the RBAF the following year.
“[The F-16 Block 70 fighters] will remain at the Lockheed facility under the direct supervision of Lockheed staff, with limited non-flying training activities with Bahrain authorized through a contract between the US Air Force and Lockheed,” a US Air Force spokesman told Breaking Defense.
“When a grouping of aircraft is ready (normally four), US Air Force pilots will ferry them overseas to the Bahraini operational location.”
‘Newest, Most Advanced’ Configuration
According to Lockheed Martin, the F-16 Block 70 is the “newest and most advanced” F-16 production configuration.
It offers a new aircraft structure that lasts 50 percent longer than previous F-16 versions.
The Block 70/72 incorporates new features, including advanced avionics, a combat-proven active electronically scanned array radar, and a modernized cockpit.
It also boasts advanced weapons, an improved engine, and a structural service life of 12,000 hours.
Additionally, the F-16 configuration is equipped with an automatic ground collision avoidance system and software that takes advantage of technologies not available in previous variants.
“We are glad to be the first country to contract the F-16 Block 70 in the region and we are expecting the deliveries by 2024 to boost the air force capabilities,” Al Khalifah said.