JNN 07 Dec 2014 Manama : Britain is returning to its naval base in Bahrain, a former British protectorate, after more than 40 years. The base will serve as the main British hub for operations in the Persian Gulf.
Under an agreement with Bahrain, the Royal Navy will be able to deploy ships of larger deadweight and in greater numbers.
The base will become the Royal Navy’s largest center of operations outside Britain.
“This new base is a permanent expansion of the Royal Navy’s footprint and will enable Britain to send more and larger ships to reinforce stability in the [Persian] Gulf,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said.
“We will now be based again in the [Persian] Gulf for the long term,” he said.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid said the deal “reaffirms our joint determination to maintain regional security and stability in the face of challenging circumstances”.
Construction of the new UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) complex in Bahrain began in April.
Britain’s Defense Ministry is constructing new facilities at Mina Salman port, the Royal Bahrain Naval Force’s primary military installation used by the British military for over 30 years. Today, Mina Salman serves the base for four British mine-hunter warships.
The work at Mina Salman is due to be completed by mid-2015.
Immediate plans include using the Mina Salman facility in operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist organization occupying large territories in Iraq and Syria.
Britain, along with the U.S., Canada and a number of other states from the anti-ISIL coalition, is already conducting airstrikes against ISIL terrorist group starting in September, but uses its air base in Cyprus as its major airfield.
Bahrain used to be Britain’s primary naval stronghold in the Persian Gulf region. Starting from 1935 it hosted the Royal Navy’s whole Middle Eastern command and for nearly four years, from 1967 until gaining formal independence from UK in 1971, Bahrain was Britain’s main regional naval base.
Bahrain already hosts the region’s largest naval base, which is dominated by the U.S. military.
Naval Support Activity Bahrain (or NSA Bahrain) in Manama is actually a former installation of the Royal Navy, transferred to the U.S. government in 1971, the year when Britain withdrew from the Persian Gulf. The NSA Bahrain is homeport to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and headquarters to the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in the region