WASHINGTON ― The U.S. State Department has cleared the sale of almost $4 billion in weapons to Bahrain, including a sale of F-16 fighters that was halted under the Obama administration.
The sale, announced Sept. 8, has an estimated cost of $3.9 billion. All announcements from DSCA are subject to congressional approval and then must go through final negotiations with the potential buyer, during which the dollar total often drops from the projected figure.
Included in the package for Bahrain are:
- Two 35-meter fast patrol boats, each equipped with one MK38 Mod 3 25mm gun weapon system and one SeaFLIR 380-HD forward looking Infrared device. The estimated cost of this sale is $60.25 million. SwiftShips, BAE Systems and FLIR Systems make up the industrial base partners.
- 107 TOW 2A radio frequency missiles, 77 TOW 2B Aero RF missiles and 37 TOW Bunker Buster RF missiles. The estimated cost of this sale is $27 million. Raytheon will be the prime contractor.
- Upgrades for Bahrain’s 20 existing F-16 Block 40 aircraft to the F-16V configuration, which includes new engines, avionics and an active electronically scanned array radar system. The estimated cost of this sale is $1.082 billion. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor.
- The purchase of 19 new F-16V aircraft, with all the associated equipment. The estimated cost of this sale is $2.785 billion. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor.
The F-16 sales had been on hold for years, as the Obama administration hit pause on the deal to try and force Bahrain to improve its human rights situation. In March, the Trump administration signaled it would be moving forward with the sale.
A State Department official, speaking on background, said the government continues to have “regular discussions with the Bahrainis on a variety of issues, including human rights and political reform. We continue to urge the Government of Bahrain to pursue reconciliation and advance reform efforts for the benefit of Bahrain’s long term security and our mutual interest in regional stability.”
While Congress will have a chance to block the sale, it is unlikely to do so. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn, told Defense News in January that he supported moving the jet sale forward and the sale will likely garner support from pro-defense Democratic senators.
However, at least one key Democrat on the committee, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., indicated he would have questions about the arms sales at a Tuesday hearing for the president’s pick for U.S. ambassador to Bahrain.
“The State Department’s human rights record has been abysmal, and I want to know if we’re not going to condition arms sales on reforms, does the ambassador have a passion for this personally and will he raise this,” Murphy said ahead of the announcement.
Joe Gould in Washington contributed to this report.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.