US-Gulf air force drills support regional security
Joint air exercises and flight training between and among the air forces of the US and the Gulf states, the UAE in particular, are designed to raise their level of readiness to respond to any threat, military experts told Al-Mashareq.
The UAE’s air force is about 10,000 strong and includes pilots, mechanics, technicians and navigation crew members in its ranks, retired UAE army officer Abdullah al-Ameri told Al-Mashareq.
"All of them require intensive and continuous training to maintain the required level of readiness" in the event of a regional escalation or confrontation, he said, noting that the Emirati air force is equipped with the most advanced fighter jets.
Training is continuing with the US, a key ally and supporter "which has military bases in the Gulf region and in the UAE", he said.
The joint training between the UAE and US air forces is part of an effort to establish an integrated military defence system between the Gulf states and the US, as well as among the Gulf states, al-Ameri added.
The security risk these countries face is shared, he explained, so it is necessary to face them together, with a united front.
"Work is currently under way to establish an integrated [defence] system to protect the skies of the Gulf through the use of [ground-based] missile systems equipped with the most advanced technology," he said.
These systems are backed by regional air forces, he said, with training exercises conducted through joint operations rooms "to ensure streamlined integration between air forces in the region and ground-based systems", he said.
Co-ordinating flights, training
"The UAE has one of the foremost air fleets in the world," said Col. Rashid Mohammed al-Marri, formerly of the Dubai Police Anti-Narcotics Department.
The fleet includes more than 80 F-16s, 30 French Mirage 2000-9 fighter jets and a number of Mirage 2000s that can be upgraded on par with the Mirage 2000-9.
It is essential that intensive training be conducted with the US squadron stationed in the Gulf to co-ordinate flights and other logistics, especially with the F-35 fighter jets of US Central Command (CENTCOM), he said.
CENTCOM is responsible for military co-ordination between the US and Gulf states.
The most important challenge pilots face in the air is refueling, so "training on refueling in the air is conducted in joint flights as it requires uncommon precision and experience", al-Marri said.
"These training exercises and flights are an essential pillar for the establishment of peace and security in the Gulf region in general and the UAE in particular, given the importance of the Air Force in responding to any threat," he added.
The military-to-military air co-ordination between fighter jets of the UAE and the US "is part of the ongoing comprehensive co-operation" between US forces and the military forces of the region, said Saudi military expert Mansour al-Shehri.
This military partnership "is a product of the security co-operation and agreements that link the US with the Gulf states", he told Al-Mashareq.
It includes all aspects of security and intelligence co-operation, between the ground, air, naval, logistic and technical forces, he said, which together constitute an interlinked chain to respond to any security threat.
"Full readiness is the basic standard for responding to threats, and it is the aim of the continuous training between the two sides," he said, which recently included recent joint exercises of UAE and US fighter jets over Gulf waters.
"This period may provide the best proof of the extreme readiness of all forces to respond to the indirect Iranian threats through the Houthis (Ansarallah) in Yemen," he said.
"It is very possible that the security situation could escalate into confrontation if the other side decides to put the lives of civilians at risk and engage in direct confrontation," he added.
"The size of the forces and the periodic exercises conducted by the military units of the Gulf states raise their level of readiness on a permanent basis," he said.
This serves as "a strong deterrent against forces that might venture to engage in confrontations with them", al-Shehri said.