By John Berends
After a series of Islamic rulers, Bahrain was conquered by the Portuguese in the early 16th century. Later, the islands then became part of the Persian empire, but that association was cut short by the arrival of the Al-Khalifa clan, Bahrain's current ruling family.
In the 1830s, Bahrain signed the first of many treaties with Britain, who offered Bahrain naval protection from Ottoman Turkey in exchange for unfettered access to the Gulf. In 1869 internal battles prompted the British to install their own choice for emir. Although oil was discovered in the area in 1902, large-scale drilling and processing didn't happen until the 1930s and as a result the main British naval base in the region was moved to Bahrain in 1935. The waves of Arab nationalism that swept through the region in the 1950s led to increasing anti-British sentiment in Bahrain. Rioting flared during the Suez crisis of 1956, bringing British troops. Britain announced its intention to leave the Gulf 15 years later, prompting Bahrain to proclaim its independence on 14 August 1971.
During the 2nd Gulf War Iraqi launched Scud missiles landed harmlessly in the sea but nevertheless, relations between the two countries hit an all-time low. Bahrain cooperated closely with the UN's monitoring mission to Iraq in the late 1990s, though the US military buildup in the Gulf in early 1998 strained relations between Bahrainis and US military personnel.
Source (among others) Lonely Planet
Since the independence, Bahrain formed a small security force operating a limited helicopter fleet and from the mid-80s it had been slowly building up its defense assets with the delivery of one squadron of F-5E/Fs. The backbone of the fighter force is formed by two squadrons of F-16C/Ds delivered in two batches between 1990 and 2001. The jet-fleet will be supplemented by an unknown 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 remains uncertain. To supplement the Cobra fleet, the Bahraini government has shown interest in the procurement of 17 additional surplus US AH-1Fs from which 14 would eventually enter service.
The Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF) was formerly known as Bahrain Ameri Air Force (BAAF) but since the elctions of 14 Februari 2002, the oilstate became a Monarchy and the Armed Forces were renamed accordingly .
On the 28th of January 2003, the government of Bahrain placed an order for six BAE Systems Hawk Mk.129 jet trainers that enables the RBAF to self sufficiently train pilots from Primary to Advanced. Deliveries of the firsat Hawks for 5sq commenced in October 2006.
In 1987 the Bahrain Defense Force, Naval Branch, was officially renamed to Bahrain Amiri Navy. Since then one sole helicopter is operated by the Navy Air Arm, being a MBB Bo105CBS-4. In line with the Air fForce, the Navy also gained a new name reflecting the Monarchy and is known as Royal Bahraini Navy.
Public security forces
This paramilitary force operates a number of helicopters and formed the bases of the current Bahrain Amiri Air Force. It was initially named "Bahrain Public Security" and was operating two Westland Scouts and two Hughes H269Cs. When this service was renamed to Bahrain Public Security Force halfway the 70s, it took delivery of two Sikorsky S-76s, one single McCulloch J2 Autogyro and some Hughes H500Ds. Nowadays it operates three Bell 412s and the most recent delivery has been a single Bell 427 that was handed over in June 2001. The BPS falls under the responsibility of the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior.