After more than 150 years of British presence and protection, the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain gained full independence on August 15, 1971. The agreement granting independence contained no provision for British defense in an emergency, but it did provide for consultation. British authorities had hoped that Bahrain might take the lead in forming a federation similar to that of the United Arab Emirates, but both Bahrain and Qatar opted instead for complete independence.
Like the other Gulf states, Bahraini society is very largely tribal in nature, and the nation is governed by a royal family acting in association with other powerful families. The ruler is known as the amir, and is both head of state and head of government. There is a separate parliament that has a limited power to draft legislation, but there are no political parties and the royal family and other powerful families make all of the important political and economic decisions. A national assembly was elected in 1973, but was dissolved two years later with no plans to reestablish it.
The Iranian revolution of 1979 added to a sense of instability in the Gulf region, and the desire of the new regime in Iran to spread the movement beyond its borders was perceived as a threat. In 1980, the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war made Iranian threats even more concrete. In 1981, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the UAE and Bahrain formed the Gulf Cooperation Council to provide for regional defense and to coordinate policy on trade and economic issues. In spite of steps on the part of the GCC to increase the military capabilites of its members, the region has remained dependent to a large extent on the Western powers for protection.
In March of 1987, the government of Bahrain signed a letter of agreement for 12 F-16C/D Block 40 fighter aircraft (8 Cs, 4 Ds) under the Peace Crown Foreign Military Sales program. The first aircraft were accepted in March 1990, and arrived in Bahrain in May of 1990. They were assigned to a single squadron that was based at Sheikh Isa AB on the east coast of the Island.
The F-16s were delivered to Bahrain just in time for the Gulf War. Although Bahrain had sided with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, it opposed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and sided with the Coalition, and Bahraini F-16s saw action as part of the Coalition forces during Desert Storm.
Three Sharpshooter targeting pods for Bahrain's F-16s were ordered in late 1993. They were delivered in 1996.
Following the end of the Gulf War, Bahrain was offered the 18 F-16Ns that were withdrawn from US Navy aggressor squadrons. They would be exchanged for eight F-5Es and four F-5Fs that have been operated by Bahrain since 1985. However, the F-16Ns are not combat-capable since they lack an internal cannon, cannot launch air-to-air missiles, and have only an F-16A-type electronics suite. In addition, the stored F-16Ns have high fatigue counts resulting from their heavy air combat training usage. They would require a lot of repair work and considerable upgrading to make them combat ready. Consequently, Bahrain turned the offer down.
Bahrain was also offered some surplus USAF F-16A/B aircraft, but these would be considerably more expensive. The embargoed Pakistani F-16s were also offered. However, both offers were turned down.
Bahrain opted instead for more modern F-16s. In April of 1998, Bahrain signed a FMS contract for 10 LANTIRN-equipped Block 40 F-16Cs, plus options for two more. Deliveries of these planes are scheduled to begin in 2000 under Peace Crown II. They have the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-68(V)8 multimode fire control radar, and feature color cockpit TV displays. The F-16s will be AMRAAM-capable, and AMRAAM capabilities will be retrofitted to the F-16s already in Bahraini service. These additional F-16s will equip a second F-16 squadron at Sheikh Isa air base.
Since the F-16s for Bahrain were acquired under the Foreign Military Sales program, they were assigned USAF serial numbers. However, they carry indigenous serial numbers, with aircraft numbers and force legends on the fuselage sides appearing in both English and Arabic. Their FMS serials were:
90-0028/0029 General Dynamics F-16C Block 40D Fighting Falcon to Bahrain as 101 and 103 90-0030/0035 General Dynamics F-16C Block 40E Fighting Falcon to Bahrain as 105,107,109,111,113,115 90-0036/0039 General Dynamics F-16D Block 40D Fighting Falcon to Bahrain as 150,152,154,156 98-2012/2021 Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40E Fighting Falcon MSN AC-9/AC-18. To Bahrain under Peace Crown II. Became s/n 201/210