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27 Mar 14. The 5th Fleet’s $580m base expansion in Bahrain will extend the US 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 5th Fleet and the US Naval Forces Central Command said the new base expansion includes modifications to accommodate the US Navy’s new littoral combat ships (LCS), which are due to be operational in the gulf by 2018. 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 US 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. (Source: Defense News)

27 Mar 14. Qatar is three years away from completing a new high-tech naval base as the Arabian Gulf state continues the rapid expansion of its naval capabilities. The assistant director of the Qatari National Security Shield project, Naval Staff Brig. Tariq Al Obaidli, said that requirements include building a forward naval base with facilities to support special ops forces and air force operations. Qatar’s huge oil and gas reserves and its reliance on sea trade makes maritime defense of paramount importance to the country, he said. Requirements also include minesweepers; development of the naval helicopter fleet; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft; and unmanned aircraft and surface vessels. During the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition (DIMDEX), the Qatari forces agreed to acquire 17 high-speed coast guard boats from Turkey´s Ares Shipyard. According to the deal, Qatar will buy two 46-meter vessels, 10 33-meter ones and five 23-meter versions made from advanced composite materials. The contract is ?the biggest one for the military ships category in the region,? said Kerim Kalafatoglu, Ares Shipyard managing director. The Qatari fleet expansion is part of the greater National Security Shield project, Al Obaidli said. (Source: Defense News)

25 Mar 14. Senior US Army leadership has doubled down on its support for another round of shuttering and shrinking domestic installations, with Army Secretary John McHugh telling a congressional committee Tuesday morning that the service could save about $1bn a year by undertaking a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC.) “To maintain an unused building is to throw money away” at a time when the Army’s budget is under stress from sequestration and the flattening of topline budget numbers in future budgets, he said. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno added that any new round of BRAC would not be as expensive as the last round of closures in 2005, “and you’ll probably get a bigger return” due to lower maintenance costs combined with the reduction in overall troop numbers. McHugh added that even though the BRAC program is politically sensitive due to the loss of jobs in certain congressional districts, it’s a “proven, fair, and cost-effective” way for the services to save money. He pointed out that the 2005 BRAC, for a $13bn investment, is already saving the Army alone at least $1bn a year. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced earlier this year that there would be no BRAC in 2015 or 2016, but that an

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