In the late 1980s, the then Bahrain Amiri Air Force (BAAF) started looking to complement its helicopter-only fleet with fighter jets. After acquiring 12 F-5E/F Tiger II aircraft, the US government approved the purchase of the more advanced F-16. Bahrain became the 15th F-16 customer, and the first customer in the Gulf region.
Bahrain ordered a total of 22 F-16s through two Foreign Military Sales programs.
Bahrain considered the F-15, F-16, F-18, the British Tornado, the French Mirage 2000, and Russian aircraft for its air defense fighter requirement. Maintainability, reliability, and the upgrade potential of the F-16 convinced Bahrain to select the block 40 Fighting Falcon.
Shortly after delivery of the first batch of F-16s, while aircrew training was still in full swing, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Bahraini AF started preparing for combat, and ultimately Bahraini F-16s participated in operation Desert Storm.
Following the end of the Gulf War, Bahrain was offered the 18 F-16Ns that were withdrawn from US Navy aggressor squadrons. They would be exchanged for the eight F-5Es and four F-5Fs in Bahraini service since 1985. The F-16N's would supplement the 12 F-16C/D's already in service, while the US Navy planned to use the ex-Bahraini F-5s for the aggressor roles instead of the F-16s. However, the high number of flying hours of these airframes, the lack of internal cannon, and F-16A electronics suite made the F-16Ns unattractive for Bahrain. This option was abandoned due to concerns about Bahrain's ability to support a non-standard aircraft.
Next, Bahrain was offered surplus USAF F-16A/B aircraft, but these would be considerably more expensive. The embargoed Pakistani F-16s were also offered. Both offers were turned down since Bahrain wanted more Block 40 aircraft.
Peace Crown I
In March of 1987, the government of the Bahrain signed a letter of agreement for 12 F-16C/D Block 40 fighter aircraft (8 Charlies and 4 Deltas) under the Peace Crown I Foreign Military Sales program. The first BAAF F-16, a dual-seat F-16D, was formally handed over to the Assistant Chief of Staff of the Bahrain Defense Forces at ceremonies in Fort Worth on 22 March 1989. The first four aircraft arrived in Bahrain on May 23rd, 1990, flown by Bahraini pilots.
Since the F-16s for Bahrain were acquired under the Foreign Military Sales program, they were assigned USAF serial numbers. However, the aircraft only carry indigenous serial numbers. The aircraft numbers and air force legends on the fuselage sides appear both in English and Arabic.
Peace Crown II
In February 1998, a Letter of Offer and Acceptance was signed to initiate a second Bahrain F-16 program. Dubbed Peace Crown II, the $303 million program funded ten Block 40 F-16s in the same configuration as the initial purchase. The new F-16s were Lantirn- and Amraam-capable. The decision to buy new was apparently due to commonality with Bahrain's other 12 Block 40's, the overall cost, and life cycle predictions.
These 10 Block 40's joined 21 other Block 40's to built for Egypt in the 1999-2000 time period, since regular production of the Block 40 model had stopped in 1995, having been supplanted by block 50 and beyond.
In November of 2017 a contract was signed to deliver 19 F-16s in the new block 70 configuration to Bahrain in a deal worth $3.8 billion. These aircraft will supplement the existing fleet of 20 block 40 F-16C/D's who are in Bahraini services since the early 1990's. These aircraft are the latest version incorporating an AN/APG-83 AESA radar and other advanced electronics. These airframes are the first ones to be delivered from the new Greenville production line and deliveries will start in 2020.
|Peace Crown I||F-16C||Block 40||8||101/115 (odd Nrs.)||1990|
|F-16D||Block 40||4||150/156 (even Nrs.)||1990|
|Peace Crown II||F-16C||Block 40||10||201/210||2000|
Modifications & Armament
In March 1999, the United States agreed to sell AIM-120B AMRAAM missiles to Bahrain to bolster the security of Gulf states against Iraq and Iran. The exact number of missiles sold is unknown. Previously, the BAAF used the AIM-7 as its long-range air intercept missile, The US is normally reluctant to approve AIM-120 sales; this particular deal was probably approved due to the fact that Bahrain hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet in the Gulf.
Iin 1993, the BAAF ordered three Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-14 Sharpshooter LANTIRN targeting pod. The pods were delivered in 1996. They are used to target the 500-pound GBU-12 and the 2,000-pound GBU-10 laser-guided bombs. The BAAF also operates the TV-guided AGM-65B and the IR-guided AGM-65G.
Together with the acquisition of the new block 70 airframes, a $1 billion deal was also concluded to upgrade the existing 20 block 40 F-16C/D airframes to the same standard. This update will also include the AN/APG-83 AESA radar and numerous advanced electronics.
UnitsPlease refer to the F-16 Units section for an overview of units.
During the Gulf War, RBAF F-16s and F-5s first flew defensive missions on 25 January 1991 and began offensive operations the following day. The Gulf War ended on 28 February 1991.
- Keith Snyder.
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