The U.S. government has agreed to a potential sale worth nearly $4 billion of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s latest F-16V fighter jet variant to Bahrain, the State Department announced.
Bahrain requested 19 F-16Vs -- the latest and most advanced version of the venerable fourth-generation fighter known as the Fighting Falcon -- at an estimated $2.8 billion, and to upgrade 20 of its existing Block 40 variants to the F-16V configuration at an estimated $1 billion, according to separate releases Friday from the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The Bahrain government also wants to buy TOW anti-tank missiles and fast patrol boats, according to additional press releases.
The foreign military sale for the newly manufactured Vipers also encompasses enhanced support and technical equipment, including APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array, or AESA, radars; M61 Vulcan 20mm gun systems; F-110-GE-129 engines; modular mission computers; and various global navigation systems, encrypted software, wing missile launchers, radio and advanced GPS equipment.
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Bahrain already has 20 F-16 Block 40s. Given Bahrain's current inventory, the U.S. anticipates an easy transition for the Persian Gulf ally to the latest model, State officials said.
In October 2015, the F-16V made its maiden flight with the Northrop Grumman Corp.-made AESA radars, according to Lockheed. The advanced AESA on the F-16V, known as the Viper, provides both air-to-ground capabilities, like its fifth-generation F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II counterparts.
The radar steers beams electronically -- without moving parts -- and redirects them from one location to another. Unlike a passive version, the radar spreads signals over multiple radio frequencies, making them difficult to detect and jam, and allowing the aircraft employing the technology to remain stealthy.
The F-16V's advanced avionics configuration also includes a new cockpit center pedestal display, a modernized mission computer and a high-capacity Ethernet data bus, according to Lockheed.
The U.S. Air Force a few years ago canceled a plan to upgrade some 340 of the single-engine fighters with such enhancements due to budget limitations and instead decided to fund other programs, including the F-35.
State officials said Congress has been notified of the potential F-16V sale to Bahrain's military.