With production well underway on the first F-16 Block 70 aircraft to be delivered to the Royal Bahraini Air Force, Lockheed Martin hosted the Bahraini Ambassador for the United States Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa in Greenville.
“Lockheed Martin’s partnership with Bahrain began more than 40 years ago,” said Bridget Lauderdale, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Integrated Fighter Group.
Bahrain was the first country in the Gulf region to acquire the F-16 aircraft, receiving the first batch back in 1990. The F-16s manufactured in Greenville will be the newest and most advanced F-16 production configuration ever offered, according to a statement from Lockheed Martin.
Speaking to the Greenville Journal in a one-on-one interview, Ambassador Khalifa said he expected the aircraft to be delivered by 2021.
“I think there is an acknowledgement today of the threats that our region is facing,” Khalifa said. “And in order for us to continue doing our job, we need to upgrade our systems.”
The $1.12 billion contract from the US government to produce 16 new F-16 Block 70 aircraft for Bahrain was awarded in June of 2018. Bahrain will be the first country to acquire the new F-16s, which feature advanced avionics, a modernized cockpit, advanced weapons systems, conformal tanks, an automatic ground collision avoidance system and an anticipated life cycle of 19 million flight hours, among other attributes.
Initial estimates over the course of the aircraft production anticipate the creation of between 150 and 200 news jobs in Greenville.
“Bahrain has been a strategic partner and friend to the United States, and South Carolina was pleased to host the delegation today,” said US Senator Lindsey Graham, who spoke through a video recording due to being held up with impeachments proceedings.
Lockheed Martin has already secured two additional customers for the F-16 Block 70 aircraft: Slovakia and Bulgaria.