The US State Department has backed the sale of 19 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters to Bahrain for US$2.7 billion quashing improved human rights pre-conditions put by the previous Obama administration.
The US had approved sale of F-16s to Bahrain along with 72 Boeing F-15 jets to Qatar and 32 F/A-18 E/F fighters to Kuwait in September last year which was long-stalled due to Israeli government’s influence.
The request of support for the sale of up to $2.7 billion in jets doesn’t include a package to upgrade older F-16s, which officials said last year could bring the proposal to as much as $4 billion, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
The upgrades will include 23 engines, radars, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and other related equipment.
The latest notice sent to Congress provides for 40 days of additional congressional review, then a formal notice to Congress as required by the Arms Export Control Act, after which the licenses for the sale would be approved.
The F-16s meant for Bahrain are likely to be manufactured in Lockheed Martin’s Greenville facility. Future customers of F-16 fighter jets will get them shipped from the USA, Rick Groesch, Lockheed’s regional vice president had said during IDEX in February this year implying an end to licence-manufacture of the aircraft in foreign countries.
“Lockheed Martin is moving production of its F-16 fighter jets from its existing Fort Worth, Texas facility to Greenville primarily for economic reasons,” Leslie Farmer, spokesperson for Lockheed's Greenville operations said earlier this month.
Lockheed plans to use its Fort Worth, Texas plant to produce the fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that the United States Air Force is transitioning to.
Farmer said the last F-16 from the Fort Worth plant will be delivered in September, and it will take about two years for the company to get production going at its Greenville facility at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center, or SCTAC.