WASHINGTON ― Lockheed Martin has received a $1.12 billion contract to produce new F-16 fighter jets for the Royal Bahraini Air Force, the company said in a news release Monday. The sale makes Bahrain the first country to procure the newest configuration of the Fighting Falcon.

The F-16V Block 70 is the latest variant of the fourth-generation, multirole fighter. It improves upon previous models through the incorporation of technology and software unavailable when earlier blocks were manufactured, particularly the advanced AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array radar.

According to Lockheed, the radar “delivers greater situational awareness, flexibility and quicker all-weather targeting” and offers “digital map displays that can be tailored with slew and zoom features.”

The latest fourth-gen aircraft combines capability upgrades such as avionics architecture and structural upgrades to extend the life of the aircraft by more than 50 percent beyond that of previous production F-16s.

Lockheed will produce 16 aircraft at its new production line in Greenville, South Carolina, the first F-16 production program to be performed at the facility. Lockheed expects the work will generate between 150 and 200 new jobs.

“We value our long-standing relationship with the Kingdom of Bahrain and look forward to beginning production activities on their first Block 70 aircraft at our facility in Greenville,” said Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 program. “This sale highlights the significant, growing demand we see for new production F-16s around the globe.”

Although the number of aircraft included the sale was reduced from an original total of 19 to 16 units due to cost-reduction policy, the sale “would save the shrinking F-16 line,” a Bahraini military source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source described the sale to Bahrain as “Lockheed’s pass to keep its F-16 production line open for the next three to five years.”

In return, the Royal Bahraini Air Force is in a crucial need of upgrading its fleet to keep up with other Gulf nations, the source added. “It’s a win-win situation; Bahrain needs the F-16, and the F-16 needs Bahrain.”

This purchase allows Bahrain to keep pace with other regional competitors such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as deals for fighter jets in the Middle East are expected to eclipse $22 billion over the next decade, according to Derek Bisaccio, an aerospace expert with Forecast International. That figure could double if additional services such as spare parts, training and maintenance are included.

Chirine Mouchantaf and Valerie Insinna contributed to this report.

Daniel Cebul is an editorial fellow and general assignments writer for Defense News, C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain and Federal Times.

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