Bahrain’s Interest in F-16 Upgrade
Bahrain has recently been considering whether or not to launch a major program in order to modernize their fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s. The country is also considering the acquisition of an additional batch equipped with the advanced V-model configuration. The regional vice-president of the Middle East for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Rick Groesch, has suggested that the Royal Bahraini Air Force is seeking for a boost in capabilities, as the country faces increasing operational demand due to its involvement in the Middle East in the coalition campaign against Islamic State militants.
“They are thinking about upgrading their airplanes – we have been in discussion for a while,” said Groesch at the Bahrain International Airshow. “In early February we will start to discuss the request with the US government. Bahrain has seen the need to get this going, due to the operational tempo now.”
The V-model configuration would include the implementation of an active electronically scanned array sensor, which has already been determined to be Northrop Grumman’s scalable agile beam radar. With the help of the United States government, the program could also potentially include precision-guided weapons, such as Lockheed Martin’s Sniper targeting pod as well as Boeing’s joint direct attack munition series.
Groesch has also suggested that in addition to this V-model upgrade, Bahrain may also acquire seventeen or eighteen newly built F-16Vs. These F-16Vs would replace the conformal 370-gallon fuel tanks with increased capabilities to operate with more weapons underneath the wing.
Updating Bahrain’s current fleet would require several modifications as well as flight tests in Bahrain with the help of Lockheed Martin. After the initial aircraft is successfully upgraded, the remaining aircrafts would then receive similar enhancements with the assistance from the nation’s air force. If this program were to launch, the deal with Bahrain would allow Lockheed Martin to extend the production of the F-16 well beyond 2017.
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