Bahraini air force details modernisation plans

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Bahraini air force details modernisation plans


The Royal Bahraini Air Force is currently in negotiations with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for the T129 ATAK combat helicopter. Once in service, the T129 will augment the service's upgraded Cobras. Source: TAI

The Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF) is to embark on a comprehensive modernisation plan to enhance the capabilities of both its fixed- and rotary-winged combat fleets, a senior officer disclosed on 22 January.

Speaking at the IQPC International Military Helicopter conference in London, Colonel Salah Al Mansoor, Head of Planning, HQ, RBAF, said that the service is about to undertake a two-phased recapitalisation programme that will see some of its current inventory first upgraded, with new platform acquisitions to follow after.

"We are a very new air force," said Col Al Mansoor. "In 1985 we got our [Northrop] F-5s, and in 1990 our [Lockheed Martin] F-16s and we need to upgrade our fleets."

According to the colonel, Phase 1, which is currently under way, will first see the RBAF upgrade its fleet of Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters. "For the Cobra upgrade we are looking to integrate new and modern weapons systems to improve the combat effectiveness and to enhance coalition interoperability. We also want to improve the [crew's] situational awareness," he said.

The fixed-wing portion of the Phase 1 upgrade involves upgrading the air force's F-16C/D platforms. "For the F-16s, we are looking to integrate the new generation of smart guided-weapons, new systems, advanced avionics and displays, new sensors, datalinks, and a new active electronically scanned array [AESA] radar to be fitted now that Boeing has offered us its Advanced Mission Computer capability. Raytheon and Northrop Grumman are offering their [Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) and Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR)] systems, but we have not finalised our choice yet," the colonel explained. This F-16 modernisation effort will begin in 2016 and run through to 2019.

With the F-16s set to be modernised, Col Al Mansoor noted that the RBAF will also look at improving its BAE Systems Hawk jet trainer aircraft to better prepare pilots for the advanced capabilities of the upgraded F-16s.

Phase 2, the colonel said, will see the air force acquire a new attack helicopter type, as well as a new 'generation 4+' combat aircraft. In terms of the rotary-winged portion of this phase, Col Al Mansoor said that the RBAF has now entered into negotiations with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for T129 ATAK combat helicopters. These, he noted, would augment the upgraded Cobras and replace the Eurocopter BO-105 Bolkow platforms that were first delivered in 1978.

The fixed-wing portion of Phase 2 will see the RBAF look to acquire a new fighter aircraft type "beyond 2025", to augment the upgraded F-16s and replace the F-5s.
Bahraini air force details modernisation plans - IHS Jane's 360

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