Royal Bahraini Air Force

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Royal Bahraini Air Force
سلاح الجو الملكي البحريني
Royal Bahraini Air Force emblem.svg
Royal Bahraini Air Force emblem
Active 1977 – Present
Country  Bahrain
Branch Air Force
Size 1,500 active personnel (2009)
100 aircraft (2009).
Part of Ministry of Defense
Bahrain Defense Force
Headquarters Bahrain International Airport
Nickname(s) RBAF
Engagements Gulf War
2015 military intervention in Yemen
Commander Maj Gen Hamad bin Abdullah Al Khalifa
Roundel Royal Bahraini Air Force roundel.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack AH-1E, AH-1P, TAH-1P
Fighter F-16C, F-16D, F-5E, F-5F
Helicopter Bell 212, Bell 412, Bell 427, MBB BO-105, UH-60
Trainer BH-129, T-67
Transport BAE-146

The Royal Bahraini Air Force (abbreviated as RBAF, formerly known as Bahrain Amiri Air Force) is the aerial warfare branch of the Bahrain Defense Force. The air force had 650 personnel in 1992[1] and 1,500 in 2009.[2]


A Bahrain Air Force Agusta-Bell 212 Twin Huey in flight over the Persian Gulf during a training mission in 1991

The air branch of the Bahrain Defence Force was organized in 1977 and began flying helicopters. In 1986, F5 fighter jets were acquired from the United States.

In 1987, the Bahrain Defense Force was reorganized into separate Army, Navy and Air force branches with the Air Wing becoming the Bahrain Amiri Air Force (BAAF). The delivery of a squadron of F-16s from 1990 marked a further increase in the capabilities of the air arm. The new F-16 unit was based at Sheik Isa Air Base alongside the F-5s. On 2 August 1990 several aircraft from the Kuwait Air Force were evacuated to Bahrain during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. During the subsequent Gulf War, BAAF carried out the first F-5s and F-16s defensive missions on 25 January 1991 and began offensive operations the following day. The Gulf War ended on 28 February 1991.

A second batch of F-16s commenced delivery in 2000. The new aircraft were equipped to carry the AMRAAM missile, first used by the USAF in 1992. In July 2000, Bahrain signed a deal with BAE Systems to establish a pilot academy based around the Hawk Trainer, similar to the NFTC in Canada. Subsequently, orders were placed for Slingsby T67 Firefly and BAE Hawk trainers. The first trainers were delivered in October 2006.[3] After the elections on 14 February 2002, the state changed from an emirate to a kingdom resulting in the renaming of the Armed Forces. Since then the air force was called the RBAF rather than BAAF. According to Sikorsky’s announcement in June 2007, Bahrain confirmed the purchase of nine UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters. The helicopters will be used in a variety of roles, including combat search and rescue.

The British government is in early talks with Bahrain over a potential order for the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter.[4] Bahrain is considering buying the Eurofighter Typhoon, the JAS 39 Gripen, the Dassault Rafale, or the F-35 Lightning II.[5]

In January 2014, the Bahraini Air Force began looking for replacements for its AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters. Candidates include the AH-64 Apache, Eurocopter Tiger, TAI T-129, Mi-28 Havoc, and Ka-52 Alligator.[6]

Incidents and accidents

One F-16 was lost on 27 September 2003 when it crashed in the Persian Gulf, 75 km (47 mi) north of Bahrain.[7]


Current inventory

Two Northrop F-5E’s on their delivery flight to Bahrain
A Bahraini Defense Force Bo 105 in flight
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
F-5 United States fighter F-5E 8[8]
F-16 United States multirole F-16C 15[8] 1 Crashed during Saudi led Intervention in Yemen
AH-1 United States attack AH-1E/F 22[8]
UH-1N United States utility AB 212 18[8]
UH-60 United States utility UH-60M 8[8]
Trainer Aircraft
F-5 United States jet trainer F-5F 4[8]
F-16 United States jet trainer F-16D 4[8]
BAE Hawk United Kingdom primary trainer Hawk 129 6[8]
T67 Firefly United Kingdom basic trainer T67 M260 3[8]
AH-1 United States trainer TAH-1P 8[8]
Bo 105 Germany trainer 4[8]

Order of battle

1st Fighter Wing (Isa Air Base)

Helicopter Wing (Riffa Air Base)


Base Location Runway Notes
Isa Air Base 9.7 kilometres (6.0 mi) south of Jaww Single 3,790 metres (12,430 ft) Home to 1st Fighter Wing
Sakhir Air Base West of Mountain of Smoke Helipad and short runway Built in 1976.
Riffa Air Base 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) south east of Riffa Single 175 metres (574 ft) runway and multiple helipads Home to the Helicopter Wing
Muharraq Air Base Located within BIA   Was once a Royal Air Force station; now used by the USN and USAF and called Aviation Support Unit (ASU) Bahrain, a USN activity.

See also


  1. A Country Study: Bahrain, Library of Congress.
  2. "Chapter Five: Middle East and North Africa". The Military Balance. Routledge. 109: 229. 2009. doi:10.1080/04597220802709902.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Royal Bahraini Air Force", Scramble on the Web.
  5. Bahraini Air Force Typhoon Order In Prospect -, 8 August 2013
  6. Bahrain; Next generation attack helicopter program -, 23 January 2014
  7. :: F-16 Airframe Details – RBAF F-16C # 204
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 "World Air Forces 2015 pg. 11". Flightglobal Insight. 2015. Retrieved 26 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>