Weapon Systems

Bahrain's improved missile defense systems bulwark against aerial threats


The kingdom's capabilities not only strengthen its own security against Iran's missile and drone threats but that of the GCC as a whole.

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US Army troops reload a Patriot launch station with missiles during a missile reload certification event at an undisclosed Southwest Asian location on February 8, 2010. [US Army]
US Army troops reload a Patriot launch station with missiles during a missile reload certification event at an undisclosed Southwest Asian location on February 8, 2010. [US Army]

Bahrain is continuing to improve its defense capabilities to meet current and future aerial threats, strengthening not only its own security but also that of all Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) member states.

Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet and the Combined Maritime Forces, continues to play a major regional role in ensuring stability.

Although the small island kingdom is not part of NATO, it is a member of the GCC, the Arab League, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

As a member of the GCC, Bahrain faces continuous threats from Iran and its Houthi proxies in Yemen, who have shown on more than one occasion their willingness to use missiles against GCC countries to achieve political goals.

Houthi drones and missiles, for example, have repeatedly targeted airports and oil facilities in neighboring Saudi Arabia. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), three people died in a series of strikes in January 2022.

At a February 16 US-GCC Counterterrorism Working Group, participants deplored "Iran's malign behavior through proxies such as Hizbullah, as well as those in Iraq, Syria and Yemen," reports the International Crisis Group.

"Iran has used unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and supported terrorist and other armed groups to conduct hundreds of attacks in the region," they said.

In January 2016, GCC member states Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced that they were working on developing a joint missile defense shield.

GCC officials said the missile defense shield would be a way to create a cross-border approach to counter Iran's growing missile capabilities.

Bahrain's missile defense

Bahrain has a range of air defense systems that help it meet regional aerial threats.

For ballistic missile defense, the kingdom deploys the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3), medium-to-long range, ground-based air defense system.

The Patriot system detects, tracks and engages unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cruise missiles, and short-range or tactical ballistic missiles.

Bahrain's PAC-3 is supported by the AN/TPS-59 air defense radar, which provides long-range surveillance and ground control intercept (GCI) capability in a tactically mobile environment, according to Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

Bahrain's additional air defense capabilities include the Crotale all-weather, short-range air defense missile system that is designed to engage helicopters, aircraft, cruise missiles, air-to-ground missiles and anti-radiation missiles.

The kingdom's capabilities also include the Oerlikon Skyguard Air Defense System, a highly mobile, easily deployed and easily operated system.

Its main purpose is to defend against all types of air threats, including cruise missiles and high speed missiles with small radar cross sections, as well as medium- and low-level aircraft, helicopters and UAV's attacking by day and by night and under all weather conditions.

Bahrain also employs the MIM-23 Hawk all-weather, low- to medium-altitude ground-to-air missile system.

The MIM-23 Hawk "is designed to engage multiple airborne threats simultaneously. It boasts a maximum engagement range of up to 40km and incorporates an advanced surveillance radar for target detection and tracking," according to Forbes.

BATS, key supplier

In February 2022, Bahrain's Defense Forces announced that it had chosen Belgian Advance Technology Systems (BATS), a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), to provide it with radars and anti-drone systems.

"The Bahraini military have chosen BATS to provide them with integrated coastal monitoring systems to defend the coasts of a military base in the country," the company said in a statement.

The solution will include "multiple installations of radars and electro-optics integrated into the command and control center."

DroneGuard, BATS' counter-UAS solution, features a suite of cutting-edge technology sensors (4D radar, COMINT, COMJAM and Ultra Long Range EO/IR) closely integrated and managed by a command-and-control system that will enable detection, classification, tracking and countering of multiple drone targets, the statement said.

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