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BAHRAIN - Special Treatment In Arms Supplies.

The US has traditionally tended to give Bahrain special treatment in some aspects of its military procurement. This will be expected to continue, and perhaps even be enhanced, in view of the support Bahrain is giving to the US forces involved in the campaign against terrorism. The nature of the offensive and defensive systems to be supplied may change in view of the new requirements. There is almost certain to be stepped up intelligence co-operation, coupled with the technological upgrading of Bahrain's capabilities that interoperability (the ability of its services to link up seamlessly with American services) would require.

As an example of the special treatment Bahrain received in the earlier decades, Washington was prepared to give Stinger air defence missiles to Manama but not to the other GCC members. Other sophisticated weapons that Bahrain had requested from the US during the 1990s include: conformal fuel tanks to increase the range of its F-16 fighter jets, the advanced medium range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared System and the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to boost the capabilities of multiple launch rocket systems.

This was in addition to surplus American weapons that Bahrain has been getting virtually free of cost. Since the mid-1990s, the emirate has been receiving millions of dollars worth of US surplus weapons free of charge. These include second-hand helicopters, missiles, armoured combat vehicles and even fighter planes. In 1994-1995, 22 second-hand helicopters were delivered to the emirate from US stocks. These included: six Bell TAH-1P Cobra helicopters, supplied free of cost in February 1994; six Bell AH-1P, cost-free, delivered in January 1995; and 10 Bell AH-1E attack helicopters provided free of cost. Bahrain also has the Cobra AH-1R helicopter.

The supply of surplus weapons began after the 1994 Defence Authorisation Act. That followed complaints by Bahrain in mid-1994 that it was disappointed by the slow pace of surplus weapons transfer despite approval by the US Congress. Under the Authorisation Act, the emirate gets the surplus weapons almost cost-free, as it has to incur only transportation charges. This was one of the rewards Bahrain has received for the close support and facilities it provided to the US during the Gulf crisis. Equipment marked for delivery as part of this agreement included an FFG-7 frigate and a Hawk air defence battery, with the frigate having the Standard air defence missile and the Phoenix shipboard self-defence system.

In addition to equipment purchases, Bahrain also sends its personnel to be trained in the US under Washington's International Military Education and Training programme. Grants by the US to Bahrain under this programme have amounted to (in fiscal years): 1994, $56m; 1995, $75m; 1996, $108m; 1997, $125m; and an estimated $175m in 1998. The grants are projected to be in the range of $250 million in 2002.

In the present context of the war against terror, such assistance from the US would be expected to flow more smoothly than during the 1990s. Currently, Bahrain has a modest defence budget of about $640-740 million, following a spurt after the Gulf war. Annual military spending is not expected to cross the $1 billion mark in the near future. According to some estimates, it would reach that level by about 2010, provided there are no major crises affecting the emirate in the meantime.

The emirate had spent about $175 million annually on defence requirements during the late 1980s. Apart from security aid from arms suppliers, since 1984 the emirate has had access to about $1 billion from a special GCC defence fund made available to both Bahrain and Oman. The money was to be spent on new military equipment over a 10-year period ending in 1994. In 1987, Bahrain's military budget amounted to $143 million. This rose to $165 million in 1988, $185 million in 1989, $202 million in 1990 and $237 million in 1991.

Through the 1990s, the ability of Bahrain to carry out defence purchases was affected by the economic situation. The focus of government spending shifted largely towards projects that could generate jobs for Bahrainis, a move seen as another aspect of the emirate's security. The military budget increased by $200 million between 1993 and 1997, an average increase of $40 million per year. Spending declined in comparison during the next five years; the military budget was projected to rise by just $110 million between 1998 and 2002, an average of $22 million per year. However, the rise in oil revenues since 1999 and a general improvement in the economic situation facing the emirate during this period, gives rise to the possibility that spending may have increased by a higher amount.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Strategic Balance in the Middle East
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Mar 11, 2002
Previous Article:BAHRAIN - The Mechanics Of Co-operation With The US.
Next Article:EGYPT - The Campaign Against Terror - Part 4.

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