Base space race

So the UK’s permanent presence in the Gulf just became a little more concrete with the breaking ground of a new naval base at Mina Salman in Bahrain.

There have been similar moves in recent months in a general expansion of UK facilities that will rely less on the immense Naval Support Activity Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet. Previous to this the UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) was its own little enclave of Britain totally dependent on its allies’ infrastructure.

It’s a big deal too, with Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Phil Hammond flying out there recently to make the speeches and press the flesh. Bahrain is forking out the lion’s share of the cost for the base.

The UK will continue to support the UKMCC, as revealed in a written parliamentary response on 2 November, the costs of which ‘were yet to be determined’.

The new site, dubbed Mina Salman Support Facility (MSSF), will have increased accommodation, medical and storage facilities, according to the same written response. The running costs from 2016-17 are expected to be £12 million per year.

The jetty will still be shared with the US, or perhaps more the other way around, which begs the question – if the UK expands its fleet size east of Suez, will there be enough room for the both them?

Despite attempts, the US 5th Fleet was unavailable for comment.

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