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Bahrain - Typhoon

A replacement for Bahrain’s fleet of 12 ageing Northrop F-5E and F-5F Tiger II lightweight fighters was once expected in the 2010 timeframe, and it was then widely anticipated that the most likely replacement would be further F-16s. It was thought that these would form an additional squadron of about ten more F-16s to augment the 21 that are currently in service. (One F-16 was lost, with its pilot, on 27 September 2003, the RBAF’s sole fast jet loss since 1985). But in mid-2012, reports started to emerge that Bahrain was looking at acquiring a squadron of more advanced fighters. -

Due to the extremely high cost to upgrade and sustain the F-16 fleet, the option to acquire new aircraft has been discussed by BDF leadership. While the purchase of any new aircraft would be much more expensive than upgrading their F-16s, the idea of having a completely new fighter may be more acceptable in this culture, than the perception of pouring money into an "old aircraft." While there is no immediate Bahraini requirement for a new fighter, elsewhere in the GCC a number of aircraft types are in contention to meet a number of near- and medium-term requirements in the region and nearby - BAE Systems with the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing offering the F/A-18 E/F and the F-15, Dassault with its Rafale, Lockheed Martin with the F-16 and F-35, and Saab offering the Gripen NG.

Bahrain’s interest in the Eurofighter Typhoon was believed to have been encouraged by neighboring Saudi Arabia, itself already a Typhoon operator. Some reports suggested that Saudi Arabia could fund Bahraini Typhoons and that 12 or 14 (reports differ) be added to the next (unannounced as of 2014, but widely expected) Saudi order for 48 additional aircraft.

Bahraini King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa met with British Prime Minister David Cameron while he was in London over the summer of 2013 to discuss the deal. King Hamad al-Khalifa had told British Prime Minister David Cameron that the Gulf state was interested in buying Eurofighter jets to “create a cohesive defense system between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)” nations. The proposed deal with the Gulf monarchy which had been rocked by protests in 2011 is thought to be worth more than £1 billion and is part of a concerted effort by Gulf countries to strengthen military ties with Britain.

Little was said about the talks since, however, and it was feared in December that any possible deal might be under threat after talks between the Eurofighter consortium and the UAE fell through.

Bahrain’s government faced condemnation and accusations of brutality for its repression of protests led by the island’s Shia majority in early 2011, but still considers Britain one of its closest international allies. Amnesty International claimed the arms negotiations showed human rights worries were once again playing second fiddle to British business deals. Tim Hancock, Amnesty International’s UK campaigns director said: “Bahrain’s human rights situation is appalling and it’s worrying that the UK appears to be taking a ‘business as usual’ approach to selling the country high-tech weaponry.

Bahraini Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa was said in May 2015 to be disagreeing with Bahraini PM Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa on the Saudi role in plans to buy the Eurofighter Typhoon for the Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF). By June 2015 Bahraini King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa was said to have decided to keep contact with the Pentagon on a new offer from Lockheed Martin to sell more F-16 fighter jets for the Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF). In October 2015 Bahraini PM Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa is said to have received a delegation from the Pentagon in Manama for talks about a deal for the F-16 aircraft in favor of the Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF).

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Page last modified: 04-11-2015 19:10:57 ZULU