Britain has opened its first permanent military base in the Middle East in more than four decades in the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain.

The facility, which was opened Thursday, will house some 500 Royal Navy personnel, including sailors, soldiers and airmen.

The HMS Juffair naval facility gives Britain a more expansive, permanent presence in the region, where maritime security ensures oil shipments and goods make it from Asia to Europe.

The British first established the HMS Juffair base in 1935 in Bahrain, but the U.S. took over the base after the small island nation gained its independence from the British Empire in 1971.

Bahrain, located off the coast of Saudi Arabia and just west of its rival Iran, also plays host to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.