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US Navy to reinforce footprint in the region

Littoral combat ships to replace minesweepers as Bahrain remains centrepiece

Gulf News

Manama: The US Navy is confirming its footprint in the Arabian Gulf by reinforcing its presence through short- and long-term plans.

Telling Navy sailors at the US Naval Facility in Manama that Bahrain remained the best option for operating out of the region, Adm Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, described a plan to bring two more coastal patrol ships to the kingdom in the spring.

He also talked about a long-term proposal to port littoral combat ships that could replace the current fleet of minesweepers operating in the area, Stars and Stripes, a daily newspaper published for the US military, Department of Defence civilians, contractors and their families, reported this week.

The first littoral combat ships are expected to arrive in Bahrain in 2018 with rotational crews, Greenert told the US newspaper.

“Bahrain is going to suddenly emerge” in the eyes of the public and the Defence Department, he said.

Initiated in 2002, the new littoral combat ship is touted as a fast and agile platform that can operate in near-shore environments. The ships have been under the microscope because of numerous maintenance issues.

Besides new equipment, more crew and families will be coming to Bahrain, Greenert said.

Construction is now underway to build more infrastructure and capacity to support the additional units on the base, home to the US Fifth Fleet.

Greenert stressed Bahrain’s key role in the service’s Middle East presence, telling sailors that the base here would continue to be its “centrepiece” and denying there was a plan B.

“We don’t have that kind of deep relationship with any other country that we have with Bahrain,” Greenert told Stripes.

Bahrain has had a long, close cooperation with the US and was designated a Major Non-Nato Ally in 2002.