Leonardo presence in Bahrain is well established since 2012, when the Italian group was selected to upgrade six naval units, two of the Al-Manama class and four of the Ahmed Al Fateh class, the contract, signed in 2015, including a new weapon control system, training services and logistics. “It is to note that for the first time the contract was assigned to a system integrator and not to a shipyard, which led us to team up with a local shipyard,” Davide Fazio, Electronics Marketing & Sales Director at Leonardo, tells EDR On-Line.
The first upgraded vessel was delivered on 22 January 2018, two more having been delivered since, the delivery of the fourth being expected before year end, ahead of schedule. “This success opens up new possibilities in the area, as other nations in the region need similar programmes,” Fazio adds. EDR On-Line understands that Royal Bahrain Naval Forces are planning to upgrade more ships in the future, which might be added to those six units. Leonardo is proposing to Bahrain other C2 solutions, mostly aimed at the land sector, including command centres as well as dismounted soldier equipment, all programmes that might represent a technological step forward for Bahrain.
A key programme is the Bahrein Defence Forces M60 main battle tank upgrade; Leonardo exhibited its proposal in real at BIDEC 2017 and is awaiting the programme development, as this was moved to the right for budgetary reasons. This programme might definitely include local content, as an important part of the value is represented by manpower. A requirement has emerged for long range air defence radars, to which Leonardo can answer with different solutions, such as its RAT-31 DL. In the aviation field Bahrainh has just started elaborating a requirement for fighter pilots training, to which Leonardo can answer with its International Flight Training School (IFTS) scheme.
Looking at the whole region, Leonardo invested on Oman, which has acquired a small number of Centauro fitted with the 120 mm gun years ago and might need to beef up its wheeled armoured fleet, while the AW139 helicopter is in service with the Police and other aircraft might join them. In the United Arab Emirates the Italian defence group is looking at the life extension programme of the MB-339 aircraft in service with the Al Fursan aerobatic team, an upgrade programme for a coastal patrol unit being also planned, for which Leonardo is proposing its skills and systems. In a few weeks Leonardo will exhibit its aviation and helicopter proposals at the Dubai Air Show, which will be focused on the IFTS, the M-346 FA as well as on the helicopters portfolio.
The US arm of Leonardo, Leonardo DRS, is also present in the Gulf and the Middle East regions, one of its key programmes being that for the UAE land forces C4I system, for which it provides a consistent part of the hardware to the prime contractor, L3 Harris, a spin-off of that programme being a much smaller work for the Bahrein Defence Forces. Leonardo DRS optronic systems are also present on UAE vehicles, the company looking for expanding that footprint in the soldier optronic sights business.
Photos courtesy Royal Bahrain Navy and Leonardo