An American flag flies near US Navy boats docked at Bahrain's Salman port in Manama.
The US Navy plans to expand its footprint in Bahrain, which currently houses the US 5th Fleet, the chief of naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert has confirmed.
“Construction is now underway to build more infrastructure and capacity to support the additional units on the base, which is home to the US 5th Fleet,” he said in comments printed by Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the US Armed Forces, reported the Bahrain News Agency (BNA).
“Besides new equipment, more crew and families will be coming to Bahrain,” he added.
Greenert, who recently visited Bahrain, said the Navy planned to bring two more coastal patrol ships to the Gulf state next year.
They also have a long-term proposal to port littoral combat ships in Bahrain, which could replace the current fleet of minesweepers, BNA quoted him as saying.
The first littoral combat ships are expected to arrive in Bahrain in 2018 with rotational crews.
Greenert also commended the facilities provided by Bahrain for US sailors and their families and stressed Bahrain’s key role in the Middle East.
The US Navy’s base in the country would continue to be its “centerpiece” he said, adding that there is “no really good plan B … compared to what we have.”
The US shares strong bilateral ties with Bahrain, which also participates in US-led military coalitions. According to official data, US military sales to Bahrain from 2000 to September 2013 reached $1.4 billion.
Bilateral trade between the two regions has also been growing and exceeded $1.9 billion in 2012. Bahrain’s imports from the US include machinery, aircraft, vehicles, and agricultural products. Exports from the Gulf state include fertilisers, aluminum, textiles, apparel, and organic chemicals.