Lockheed Martin is closer to securing an extension of F-16 production, following the Pentagon’s notification to Congress of the possible sale of 19 new-build F-16V models to Bahrain. The country also wants to upgrade its existing fleet of 20 F-16C/D Block 40s to the F-16V standard. Lockheed Martin officials have been negotiating the deal since 2015.
The estimated cost of the new-build aircraft is $2.785 billion including support. The upgrade is worth $1.082 billion, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). The upgrade extends to the engines, since 23 new GE F110-GE-129 powerplants would be acquired.
The key elements of the F-16V version—all of which are included in the sale to Bahrain—are the Northrop Grumman APG-83 Scaleable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar; a new modular mission computer (MMC); a large center pedestal display with improved programmable display generators (IPDGs); a high-speed databus; embedded GPS/INS navigation systems; and Link 16. It is not clear whether Bahrain will get the conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) that can form part of the F-16V offer.
The first customer for the F-16V was the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) on Taiwan, which is upgrading its large fleet of F-16A/B models. Then came the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), a large operator of F-16C/D models.
For its F-16Vs, the Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF) will also acquire 20 ITT AN/ALQ-211 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare System (AIDEWS) pods; 25 Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pods; and six UTA Aerospace Systems DB-110 reconnaissance pods. The DB-110s are described as “advanced reconnaissance systems,” meaning that Bahrain could be the first confirmed customer for the multispectral version of this pod.
The sale includes provision for a wide range of weapons, including Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder AAMs; Raytheon AIM-120C Advanced Medium-range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs); Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOWs); Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles; Raytheon AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs); Boeing GBU-38 JDAM GPS-guided "smart" bombs and GBU-54 laser JDAMs; Boeing GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs; GBU-24 Paveway III and GBU-50 Enhanced Paveway II laser-guided bombs; and BLU-109/111/117 hard target and penetrator bombs.
“Bahrain will use this capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense,” the DSCA said. It claimed that the proposed sale “would not upset the basic military balance in the region.” It also noted that the sale would “improve interoperability with U.S. forces and other regional allies.”