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Bahrain first customer to receive advanced Block 70 F-16 fighter

The first Royal Bahraini Air Force F-16 Block 70 was officially handed over at Lockheed Martin's Greenville, South Carolina on March 10. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin and the Royal Bahraini Air Force commemorated the delivery of Bahrain’s inaugural F-16 Block 70 aircraft in Greenville, South Carolina, on March 10.

Bahrain was the first F-16 operator in the Gulf Cooperation Council since the early 1990s, and now it has ordered 16 jets. The delivered fighter performed its inaugural flight on Jan. 24, 2023. Following additional flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, the jet is scheduled to arrive in Bahrain in 2024.

Six countries, including Bahrain, have selected Block 70/72 aircraft, with 127 jets officially on backlog to-date to be produced in Greenville. Jordan has signed a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) for 12 jets, and Bulgaria has signed an LOA for eight jets for its fleet, increasing the backlog to 147 once finalized.

“Today’s ceremony represents the next generation of the powerful and proven legacy of the F-16, and demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s commitment to advancing this program and getting this much-needed aircraft and its advanced 21st century security capabilities to the warfighter,” said OJ Sanchez, the vice president of the Integrated Fighter Group.

The Block 70/72 features a new, high resolution center pedestal display (CPD), which provides critical tactical imagery to pilots and allows them to take full advantage of AESA and targeting pod data. The new CPD enables color moving maps, larger and easier to manage air-to-air situation displays, zoom functionality with the ability to switch information among displays, digital display of flight instrument data, and a color/night helmet mounted display.

The Block 70/72 also has an extended structural life to 12,000 hours – more than 50 percent beyond that of previous production F-16 aircraft.

A new advanced APG-83 AESA radar delivers greater situational awareness, flexibility and quicker all-weather targeting. Lockheed says the APG-83 provides F-16s with 5th generation fighter radar capabilities by leveraging hardware and software commonality with F-22 and F-35 AESA radars. The AESA is being integrated with a new active and passive internal electronic warfare system (Viper Shield), which incorporate a new fully Digital Radar Warning Receiver (DRWR) designed to interface with the APG-83 radar.