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Expansion of 5th Fleet base underscores long-term gulf presence

Mar. 27, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
A tied arch bridge, known as the flyover bridge, is moved into place over the Khalifa Bin Salman Causeway connecting Naval Support Activity Bahrain to the US Navy port facility.
A tied arch bridge, known as the flyover bridge, is moved into place over the Khalifa Bin Salman Causeway connecting Naval Support Activity Bahrain to the US Navy port facility. (Navy)
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DOHA, QATAR — The Fifth Fleet’s $580 million base expansion in Bahrain will extend the U.S.’ operational tenure in the gulf well into the middle of the century, according to Vice Adm. John Miller.

Speaking to Defense News at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition (DIMDEX), the commander of the Fifth Fleet and the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said the new base expansion includes modifications to accommodate the Navy’s new littoral combat ships (LCS), which are due to be operational in the gulf by 2018.

“This shows that there is an enduring presence,” Miller said. “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. Those are ships that will serve in the U.S. Navy and this area right until the middle of the current century,” he added.

“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.”

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 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.

According to Miller, the most important role of the U.S. presence is to provide the leadership.

“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.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet base will always be a work in progress, he added.

“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.”

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