A fighter plane prepares to take off from a US aircraft carrier. Image Credit: Los Angeles Times

Manama: US Navy operations in the Arabian Gulf will go well into the middle of the century, the commander of the 5th Fleet and the US Naval Forces Central Command has said.

Referring to the $580 million base expansion in Bahrain that includes modifications to accommodate the US Navy’s new littoral combat ships (LCS), due to be operational in the Arabian Gulf by 2018, Vice Admiral John Miller said that it indicated “an enduring presence.”

“Some of the modifications that we are doing right now will help us get the base ready for the arrival of the littoral combat ships, which will start right around 2018,” Miller told Defence News at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition (DIMDEX). “Those are ships that will serve in the US Navy and this area right until the middle of the current century. We would not plan for this infrastructure if we did not plan on staying here and the second thing is that we plan on staying not just as the US Navy but in a coalition environment.”

According to Defence News, the LCS is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation, according to the US Navy. It is designed to defeat asymmetric anti-access threats, such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The LCS class consists of two variants, Freedom and Independence. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin. The Independence variant team is being led by General Dynamics, Bath Iron Works and Austal USA.

The LCS seaframes will be outfitted with reconfigurable payloads, called mission modules made up of mission systems and support equipment, which can be changed out quickly. These modules combine with crew detachments and aviation assets to become complete mission packages, which will deploy manned and unmanned vehicles and sensors in support of mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare or surface warfare missions.

The US presence in the region provides expertise, might and leadership, added Miller, who replaced Vice Admiral Mark Fox as commander in May 2012.

“I see this role as growing over time and will continue to grow; we provide a certain amount of technical expertise; we bring a certain amount of firepower to the maritime security force as a sort of backbone, but the most important thing we provide is leadership,” he said. “We have seen the addition of the flyover that connects us to the waterfront side of things will be completed in a few months, we continue to negotiate additional leases with the Bahrainis and we continue to see some growth there and we also have opportunities with some other partners to consolidate our maintenance activities there to allow us to be more efficient.”