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First 3 of 16 F-16 Block 70s arrived in Bahrain

March 12, 2024 (by Lieven Dewitte) - In a significant milestone for Bahrain’s military capabilities, the first three of 16 F-16 Block 70 jets landed at Bahrain’s Isa Air Base on Friday, March 8.

Pre-flight checks are completed on Bahrain's F-16 Block 70 single-seat fighter jet in preparation for its ferry flight from Greenville, South Carolina to Bahrain on March 6, 2024. [Lockheed Martin photo]

These fighter jets constitute the first batch of aircraft included in the Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF)’s ‘Hamad Falcons’ fleet.

They left the Greenville production facility in South Carolina bound for Bahrain on March 6th.This first ferry flight cell came one year after the first F-16 Block 70 was officially presented to the Bahraini Air Force during a ceremony in Greenville in March 2023.

Imagery released by Lockheed Martin showed two single-seat F-16C and one twin-seat F-16D aircraft on the ramp prior to departure.

Bahrain became the first F-16 operator in the Gulf Cooperation Council in the early 1990s, and in June 2018 it became the launch customer for the F-16 Block 70. The RBAF will also upgrade its 20 block 40 F-16C/D aircraft to this latest standard to make a total fleet of 36 F-16 Block 70 aircraft.

Lockheed Martin has already produced five F-16 Block 70 jets for Bahrain, with an additional 11 in various stages of production and testing. Two aircraft are currently performing flight-test missions at Edwards Air Force Base, California, with the US Air Force (USAF) 416th Flight Test Squadron.

The F-16 Block 70 jets are equipped with state-of-the-art features including the APG-83 AESA Radar, advanced avionics, modernised cockpit with new safety systems, and sophisticated weapon platforms.

Moreover, these jets boast additional enhancements such as conformal fuel tanks for extended range, improved performance engine, and an extended structural service life of 12,000 hours. Notably, the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS), introduced in late 2014, has proven crucial in safeguarding pilots’ lives, showcasing the aircraft’s superior safety standards and performance capabilities.

The F-16 Block 70 program has a current backlog of 133 aircraft for six countries. Lockheed Martin anticipates delivering 19-21 jets this year from its production line in Greenville.

Additional images:

The first flight on the brand-new block 70 with this D-model ultimately destined for Bahrain as #1611 happened on January 24th, 2023. [Lockheed Martin photo]

Bahrain’s two-seat F-16 Block 70 takes off from Greenville, South Carolina on March 6, 2024. [Lockheed Martin photo]

RBAF F-16D block 70 #1612 is seen on one of its first flights. [Photo by Owen Hewitt]