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First F-16 Block 70s depart for Bahrain

One of the first three F-16 Block 70 aircraft bound for Bahrain departs the Greenville production facility in the US on 6 March. (Lockheed Martin)

The first Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft for Bahrain departed the United States for the Gulf on 6 March.

The manufacturer announced the milestone, saying the first three of 16 jets had left the Greenville production facility in South Carolina bound for Bahrain.

To date, Lockheed Martin has produced five F-16 Block 70 jets for Bahrain, with the additional 11 in various stages of production and testing. Two of the initial aircraft are performing flight-test missions at Edwards Air Force Base, California, with the US Air Force (USAF) 416th Flight Test Squadron.

News of the departure of the first ferry flight cell came 12 months after the first F-16 Block 70 was officially presented to the Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF) during a ceremony in Greenville in March 2023. While that aircraft was a twin-seat F-16D, the composition of this first ferry flight cell was not disclosed. However, imagery released by Lockheed Martin showed two single-seat F-16C and one twin-seat F-16D aircraft on the ramp prior to departure.

Bahrain became the first F-16 operator in the Gulf Cooperation Council in the early 1990s, and in June 2018 it became the launch customer for the F-16 Block 70 when it signed a USD1.12 billion contract with the US government (if all of Bahrain's F-16 Block 70 options are exercised, the total value of the deal is estimated to be USD3.86 billion). The RBAF will also upgrade its 20 Block 40 F-16C/D aircraft to this latest standard to make a total fleet of 36 F-16 Block 70 aircraft.

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