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Bahrain order keeps F-16 production ticking over

Lockheed Martin has signed an initial contract worth $1.2 billion to launch production of the F-16 Block 70 on a new final assembly line in Greenville, South Carolina for the Royal Bahraini Air Force.

The undefinitised contract for 16 examples of the latest version of the 45-year-old F-16 keeps the programme in production as Lockheed continues to market the single-engined fighter for new orders in India and elsewhere.

"This sale highlights the significant, growing demand we see for new production F-16s around the globe," says Susan Outzs, vice-president of Lockheed’s F-16 programme.

The contract signing comes nine months after the Trump administration lifted his predecessor's policy of blocking the deal until the Bahraini government addresses concerns on human rights.

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The new batch of 16 F-16 Block 70s will add to Bahrain's existing combat air fleet, which includes older F-16Cs and Northrop F-5Es.

Lockheed's Block 70 configuration includes several key upgrades, including a Northrop Grumman APG-83 electronically scanned array radar that significantly increases detection range and tracking capacity from previous sensors. The radar upgrade is augmented by the addition of a larger, colour display in the fighter's cockpit.

The new standard also includes other features now offered as upgrades for older F-16s. The aircraft's software is updated with an auto-ground collision avoidance system, which automatically steers the aircraft away from a collision if it senses that the pilot has failed to take action.

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