Reuters reports that the White House has informed Congress of a proposed U.S. $5 billion sale of 19 new-built Lockheed Martin F-16s – along with spare engines, munitions and other equipment – to Bahrain.
The previous administration had proposed the sale in September, but withdrew it because it was not convinced that Bahrain made the requisite improvements in its respect for human rights.
The White House and State Department have apparently removed that condition.
Although Lockheed Martin did not comment on this recent news, the company did express its hopes for securing a new Bahrain sale during IDEX 2017, which took place in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in February. Prior to that, Bloomberg reported that Bahrain requested 19 F-16V – re-designated Block-70 – for $2.8 billion and upgrade kits, valued at $1 billion, for its existing F-16 fleet.
The F-16 Block-70 is configured with the AN/APG-83 active electronically-scanned array radar, new Center Pedestal Display (CPD), updated avionics suite – including a new modular mission computer – to manage the F-16V’s sensors, and compatibility with the Lockheed Martin Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod and Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System. The F-16V retains the Block-50/52’s airframe design and engine options.
On March 23, Lockheed Martin announced that it will move its F-16 manufacturing line from Fort Worth, Texas, to Greenville, South Carolina. Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility will transition to manufacturing F-35 Lightning IIs. As per Lockheed Martin, it will take Greenville two years to begin manufacturing F-16s. It appears that Bahrain’s F-16s would be built at Greenville, which would set a lead-time of at least three or four years before Bahrain receives its first new aircraft.
Recently, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) stated that it was still engaged with the U.S. on the matter of buying F-16s. A proposed sale of eight new-built F-16C/D Block-52+ aircraft to Pakistan fell through following Congress’ refusal to release Foreign Military Financing (FMF) support, which would have partly subsidized the sale. Despite that, the PAF Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sohail Aman said that he was confident that a mutually workable agreement for both countries would come to pass, not just for those eight F-16s, but also additional fighters.
Update (31/03/2017): The Bahraini request reportedly does not include upgrade kits for its existing F-16s. The value of the revised deal is set at $2.7 billion (Bloomberg).