The first Royal Bahraini Air Force F-16 Block 70 was celebrated at Lockheed Martin in Greenville, South Carolina on March 10. Lockheed Martin photo

The Kingdom of Bahrain received a boost to its air defense capabilities with the delivery of the first F-16 Block 70 jet from Lockheed Martin. Officials from Bahrain, the United States, and Lockheed Martin gathered in Greenville, South Carolina, to celebrate the historic moment.

Bahrain has a unique history with the F-16, having been the first F-16 operator in the Gulf Cooperation Council in the early 1990s. Now, with the delivery of the first F-16 Block 70, the Gulf nation is set to transform its air force for the next generation.

“The F-16 celebrated today represents the next generation of the powerful and proven legacy of the F-16,” said OJ Sanchez, vice president of the Integrated Fighter Group, which includes the F-16 program. “With the Block 70 iteration, we are transforming 4th generation for the next generation for the Royal Bahraini Air Force and other partners and allies around the world.”

The F-16 Block 70 jet is the first of 16 jets for Bahrain and took its first flight on Jan. 24, 2023. It will undergo additional flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base before arriving in Bahrain in 2024.

Lockheed Martin’s F-16 program is highly regarded around the world, with six countries having selected Block 70/72 aircraft. Jordan has signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for 12 jets, and Lockheed Martin has received a contract to begin its long-lead activities. Bulgaria has also signed an LOA for an additional eight jets for its fleet, and once these are finalized, the backlog will increase to 147.

“The F-16 celebrated today was built by our talented, committed workforce in Greenville,” said Danya Trent, vice president of F-16 Programs and Greenville site leader. “We are proud to call Greenville the global home of the F-16 and look forward to continuing to produce jets serving missions around the world.”

The F-16 Block 70 is the latest version of the F-16, which has been in service for more than 40 years. It features advanced avionics, weapons systems, and radar capabilities, making it one of the most capable fighter jets in the world.

“The F-16 Block 70 provides advanced 21st Century Security capabilities to the warfighter,” said Sanchez. “Lockheed Martin is committed to advancing this program and getting this much-needed aircraft to the warfighter.”

Bahrain’s F-16 Block 70 jets will provide a significant boost to the nation’s air defense capabilities, allowing it to better protect its borders and defend against potential threats. The F-16s will join Bahrain’s existing fleet of F-16s and other aircraft, including the F-5E/F Tiger II, Eurofighter Typhoon, and AH-1Z Viper.

The F-16 Block 70 is also highly sought after by other countries, with many nations recognizing its advanced capabilities and reliability. The F-16 program has been a significant success for Lockheed Martin, with more than 4,600 aircraft delivered to over 30 countries.

The delivery of the first F-16 Block 70 jet to Bahrain marks a significant milestone for both Bahrain and Lockheed Martin. It represents the next step in Bahrain’s air defense capabilities and highlights the continued success of the F-16 program.