Saudi, US air forces train together to face off threats

By Al-Mashareq


A US Air Force E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft takes off from al-Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, in support of Desert Mirage III – the third iteration of a bilateral event between the US and Royal Saudi air forces designed to enhance interoperability and air defense capabilities in the region, on May 19. [US Air Force]

The recently concluded Desert Mirage III, a bilateral drill that saw personnel from the Royal Saudi Air Force training alongside their US counterparts, will improve the two sides' ability to operate together, military officials said.

The joint exercise, conducted in Saudi Arabia at Prince Sultan Air Base on May 18 and 19, served as a deterrent to adversaries who might seek to target the kingdom or its Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) partners, they said.

It also sought to reassure Gulf allies by demonstrating the air capabilities and interoperability of the Royal Saudi Air Force and the US Air Force, showing they are capable of maintaining regional security and stability.

Drills were designed to test capabilities and co-ordinate the command and control aspects necessary for base and region defence, the US Air Force said.

US Marine Corps and Army personnel also took part in "scenarios that ranged from the runway to the skies", it said.

US Marine F/A-18D Hornets joined the Desert Mirage exercise for the first time, having recently deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base as part of a dynamic force employment.

"The addition of the Hornets introduced a new joint element and increased the effectiveness of the overall training," the US Air Force said.

"The live-fly event enabled each force to practice their unique tactics, techniques and procedures, and achieve combined success."

The exercise included a number of trainings on joint combat scenarios to face off emerging threats and upgrade the level of joint combat readiness, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It also sought to "deepen the ties of co-operation among the Saudi forces and the US forces, to reach the required deterrence to any possible attack that would threaten regional security and safety", it added.

Participating in the manoeuvres from the Saudi side were F-15 and F15-C tactical fighter aircraft, Typhoon multirole fighters and Tornado interceptors, as well as early warning, reconnaissance and refueling systems.

Participating from the US side were F15, F16 and F18 fighter aircraft and airborne warning and control systems (AWACS), a long-range radar surveillance and control centre for air defence, according to the SPA.

Supporting regional security

In July 2019, the Saudi Ministry of Defence announced that based on efforts to increase joint co-operation in defence of regional security and stability, King Salman had approved the hosting of US armed forces in the kingdom.

US forces were already present at some sites inside the kingdom under bilateral agreements between the two sides.

The United States has since re-established a presence at Prince Sultan Air Base, located in the desert south of Riyadh, moving in equipment and troops.

The move had been anticipated "in view of the unstable security situation prevailing in the region", former Saudi military attaché Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Shehri told Al-Mashareq at the time.

Prince Sultan Air Base is one of the largest military bases in the Middle East and can accommodate large numbers of troops, equipment and vehicles and "a large number of fighter jets", he said.

The transfer of fighter jets to the base will provide the kingdom and the US air superiority that will fully protect ground forces in the case of a conflict, he added.

The recent deployments and exercises of the US military in the Middle East have been aimed at reassuring regional allies of the willingness and ability of US forces to rapidly deploy around the globe at a moment's notice.

They aim to counter threats by destabilising actors in the region.

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This joint co-operation between an important regional country, like Saudi Arabia, and a superpower, like America, will enhance security and safety in the region. It will also spare the region conflicts and wars, spread calm, and sow fear in any country that tries to undermine the region’s security.