Bahrain hits military mart hard with possible US and Russian arms deals

Bahrain announced a $3.8 billion with US military aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin on Tuesday, but it might also be close to striking a deal with another rival military power – Russia.

Manama said it would purchase 16 upgraded F16 fighter jets, during a major defence exhibition on the Gulf island state.

Russian media have also claimed that Bahrain might be close to purchasing Moscow’s latest anti-aircraft system the S-400.

Once almost exclusively the preserve of US and West European arms manufacturers, Gulf states have also started to turn their eyes to Russia for military hardware.

Russia and Gulf superpower Saudi Arabia announced a major deal for the S-400 surface-to-air missiles during a visit by King Salman to al-Saud to Moscow earlier this month.

Bahrain could be close to following its regional ally’s lead, as defence officials hold talks with S-400 manufacturer.

“We are currently in the stage of negotiations, but with God’s help we will finish this process,” said Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, commander of Bahrain’s Royal Guards on Monday, according to Russia’s Sputnik news outlet.

“Bahrain and Russia have established broad cooperation in the military sector. Meetings are being held, negotiations are taking place, relations have also been established between the leadership of two countries.”

Russia has already found buyers for its S-400 in the region, with Saudi Arabia and Turkey set to buy the systems.

Regional rival Iran has purchased the earlier S-300 model and is looking to obtain what defence analysts believe to be the far superior newer model.

Egypt and Qatar are also reportedly trying to purchase the S-400.

Bahrain has long and warm military relations with Washington, hosting the US Fifth Fleet.

It was dismayed by US arms sales restrictions to Bahrain following the violent suppression of anti-government protests on the island, but these have been eased by President Donald Trump.

Despite Russia’s recent entry to the Gulf market, its ambitions are dwarfed by recent US arms deals.

During Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May, Washington revealed a historic $350 billion arms deal with Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has been alarmed by the growing strength of Iran in the region and influence in neighbouring Iraq and Yemen.

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