Bahrain Royal Air Force / Bahrain Amiri Air Force (BAAF)
The Kingdom of Bahrain has built up a small but professional air force since independence was declared on 14 August 1971. Although Bahrain is the smallest and least populous of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) nations, the Royal Bahraini Air Force is highly efficient, well-equipped, and relatively modern.
The Royal Bahraini Air Force was formerly known as the Bahrain Amiri Air Force, but when Bahrain became a monarchy in the elections of 14 February 2002, the armed forces were renamed accordingly. The foundation of the Bahrain Amiri Air Force (BAAF) came by order of H.H.Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa the Amir and Supreme Commander with the formation of an Air Wing on the 8th of May 1976 to complement other formations and units already in service in the B.D.F. The formation of BAAF was preceded by several studies conducted of the requirements of the Bahrain Defense Force, as dictated bygeographical location, the strategic position of the country and the standards achieved by advanced countries in this field.
Given the importance of the Air Force in the modern battle, and its pivotal role which is indispensable to any armed force, His Majesty the King ordered the formation of the Royal Bahrain Air Force on the 8th of May 1976. Extensive studies had been prepared in the light of the requirements of the Defense Force and the country's capabilities. On September 4, 1979, the aircraft began the arrival of the helicopter squadron (type Bell 212), and on April 26, 1982, His Highness Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa inaugurated the Riffa Air Base and delivered its flag.
The Bahraini air force began operations in 1977 with a gradually expanding fleet of helicopters. In view of the strategic requirements the national authorities initially adopted a project for equipping the air wing with helicopters. The tasks assigned to the air arm were numerous and important: (1) supportingthe ground forces by quickly transferring equipment whose movement over ground inhigh mountains or water surfaces or sand stretches is difficult, (2) defense of the air space and boundaries of the country on land, (3) defense of territorial waters in conjunctionwith the Navy. At the beginning of May 1979, construction of Al-Riffa Air Base started and on 04 September 1979 the operational helicopter squadron arrived at the new base. On 26 April 1982, H.H. Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa officially opened the Al-Riffa base. This base, which was designed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, played an essential role during the first Gulf War. It hosted 250 U.S. and allied combat aircraft that flew over 11,000 sorties against Iraq. This war demonstrates that the size of the country has nothing to do with its international role.
In 1985 the Bahraini Air Force took the road to high-performance fighters, purchasing through US FMS 12 Northrop F-5 E/F combat aircraft. With the acceptance of the F-5 aircraft in October 1985, the BAAF joined the jet age. From the mid-1980s it had been slowly building up its defense assets after the delivery of one squadron of F-5E/Fs. Like the Saudis, the Bahrainis operated the F-5 in a ground attack role, probably minus the manual laser tracker.
The jet-fleet was supplemented by a number of BAE Systems Hawk 100s that were ordered in July 2002. The helicopter fleet consists of 24 Bell AH-1E Cobra attack helicopters. The operational status of the Bell 212s and MBB Bo105s remained uncertain. To supplement the Cobra fleet, the Bahraini government had shown interest in the procurement of 17 additional surplus US AH-1Fs from which 14 would eventually enter service. I-Hawk SAMs were on order as the principal air defense weapon.
By 2010 the Royal Bahraini Air Force was composed of 1,500 personnel and possesses both fixed and rotary wing combat aircraft, including the F-16C/D, the F-5E/F, the AH-1E, and the S-70A. It has two bases; one in Shaikh Isa and the other located in Riffa, and it is considered an effective defensive force among world air forces, although it only has three fighter squadrons and four helicopter squadrons. Bahrain must rely on its GCC neighbors in order to train its air force personnel and also cooperates with the GCC in training exercises such as "Gulf Spears".
The participation of the Royal Bahrain Air Force among the weapons of other Defense Force units in the battle for the liberation of the State of Kuwait was one of the most significant achievements of the pilots and technicians of the Royal Bahrain Air Force, where they did well, and implemented what was requested in a spirit full of sacrifice and heroism, and a high level of combat efficiency, assuring the integrity of the approach. On that occasion, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the King of the country, said: `` This performance of our valiant fellow was the result of continuous training, Dad Al-Jadid is doing the Bahrain Defense Force to protect this precious homeland and its achievements and the participation of their brothers in the GCC countries; to achieve security and stability of this region).
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