Proposed ATACMS Sale to Bahrain Announced

October 2000

After holding regular informal consultations with House and Senate members, the Pentagon formally informed Congress on September 26 of a potential $51 million sale of 30 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Bahrain. This would mark the first sale of the ground-to-ground tactical missile to a Near East country; only Turkey, Greece, and South Korea have previously acquired the weapon. The sale will likely spur requests by other countries in the region for the missile.

Bahrain will receive the Block I version of the missile, which has a range of 165 kilometers and carries a warhead comprised of 950 M-74 antipersonnel and antimateriel bomblets. The range and payload of the missile does not qualify it as a Category I system under the voluntary 32-member Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which aims to prevent the proliferation of missiles capable of delivering a 500 kilogram payload to a range of 300 kilometers or more.

First officially requested by Bahrain in 1999, the proposed sale will be conducted through the Pentagon's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. A U.S. State Department official said the terms of the deal are classified by mutual agreement, though Defense News reported the United States would require strict safeguards to allow Washington to control access to storage facilities as well as missile launching access codes. The missile will be exported in such a way that it will be impossible to modify its range or payload. Dan O'Boyle, U.S. Army spokesperson for the program executive office for tactical missiles, said that in the past no ATACMS have been exported via FMS "without having the warhead assembly welded to prevent modification."

As with all arms deals worth $14 million or more, Congress will have 30 days (15 in the case of NATO members, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand) to block the sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval under the 1976 Arms Export Control Act. However, once formally notified, Congress has never stopped a sale.