Lockheed Martin sees a market for 400 new F-16s – including a number of prospects in the Middle East – after securing Bahrain as launch customer for the Block 70 variant.
The Royal Bahraini Air Force committed in June to 16 examples of the single-engine fighter, to be built at a new final assembly line in Greenville, South Carolina. The deal, agreed months after President Trump overturned his predecessor’s ban on a sale to Bahrain over human rights concerns, will maintain production of the 45-year-old aircraft well into the next decade.
Speaking at the Bahrain air show on 14 November, Robert Harward, chief executive for Lockheed Martin Middle East, said first delivery was on track for the final quarter of 2021. He describes the fighter as a “workhorse” that “can’t be touched by anything that isn’t a fifth generation aircraft”.
The new configuration includes a Northrop Grumman APG-83 electronically scanned array radar, augmented by the addition of a larger, colour display in the fighter’s cockpit.
Bahrain is among a number of Middle Eastern countries to field older versions of the F-16, and neighbour the United Arab Emirates was launch customer for the most recent, Block 60 iteration.
The US defence giant also has high hopes for sales into the region of the LM-100J, the commercial freighter variant of the C-130J military transport. Pallas Aviation has been named as the LM-100J launch operator, and will operate two of the aircraft from Fort Worth in Texas.
Lockheed introduced the LM-100J in 2014 after delivering more than 100 of the original L-100 between 1964 and 1992.
“Many Middle Eastern countries have operated legacy L-100s for decades and these aircraft are a staple in their fleets,” says Harward. “We know the aircraft is ideally suited to operate in the region.”