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AFCENT celebrates key partner FMS success

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marnee Losurdo
  • 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central)

The Royal Bahraini Air Force, the United States Air Force and Lockheed Martin celebrated the first F-16 Block 70 delivery to Bahrain during a ceremony at Lockheed Martin’s Greenville, South Carolina site at 11 a.m. today.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a key security cooperation partner for U.S. Central Command.

“Our focus is on partnership in the region,” said Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, commander of 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central), the air component of USCENTCOM. “There is no better way to secure partnership than with the roll out of the Block 70 F-16. It is not just a deliberate capability for Bahrain; it is now an investment with a long-term relationship. We will be able to cooperate and be interoperable with them for decades to come because of this purchase.”

The F-16 Block 70 jet, the first of 16 jets destined for the Royal Bahraini Air Force, took its first flight Jan. 24 and will undergo additional test flights at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Following Bahraini pilot training, the first planes are projected to arrive in Bahrain in 2024.

According to Lockheed Martin, Bahrain—one of six countries that have selected the Block 70/72 aircraft—has a unique history with the F-16. They were also the first F-16 operator in the Gulf Cooperation Council in the early 1990s.

For more than 50 years, Bahrain has been an important partner and invaluable ally for the U.S. The Kingdom of Bahrain’s relationship with the U.S. dates back to 1903 with the establishment of the American Mission Hospital, the first modern hospital in the country and region, said Maj. Gen. Shaikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, commander of the Royal Bahraini Air Force.

Bahrain is also the home for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquarters, which has been in the country since the 1940s. Established in 1977, the Royal Bahrain Air Force has participated in regional coalition operations, including over Yemen and Iraq against Islamic State group fighters.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain’s relationship with the United States is based on mutual respect, common interests, cooperation in both military and civilian fields and above all, the friendship between both nations,” said Al Khalifa.

James A. Hursh, Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, further emphasized the importance of working with allies and partners in the region.  

“Events in history have taught us that our security interests don’t end at the water’s edge,” said Hursh, whose agency advances U.S. defense and foreign policy interests by building the capacity of U.S. allies and partners through oversight of programs such as Foreign Military Sales. “Our whole of government approach to leveraging ally and partner national capabilities helps us secure common interests and promote shared values. We’ve seen much more than the unveiling of an airframe. We’re witnessing the projection of defense capacity into the hands of a trusted partner and in the process, we’re advancing our security interests to align with the challenges of today, many of which are still well beyond our shores.”