National Day celebrations: what you need to know about UAE's Al Fursan aerobatics team

Elite Air Force pilots will perform on Wednesday to mark National Day

On Wednesday, Al Fursan jets will soar, tumble, loop and twirl in the air, leaving smoke trails in the colours of the UAE flag to celebrate the country’s birthday.

The national aerobatic team is celebrating a milestone of its own this year - a decade of public performances.

Its planes first soared above the skies over Al Ain in 2010.

The jets will take off from a base in the capital and perform over the Abu Dhabi Corniche between 4pm and 5pm.

This year’s performance promises to be extra special, as the team will be accompanied by the UAE’s latest Mirage 2000 and F-16 jets.

So what can spectators expect on the day?
The National explains.

What is Al Fursan?

The UAE national aerobatic team, which takes to the skies to mark special occasions, has many counterparts overseas, including the Red Arrows in the UK, the Blue Angels in the US, and Frecce Tricolori in Italy.

The team’s name is Arabic for The Knights.

Members are all Air Force pilots.

When was the team formed?

Al Fursan was formed in 2009, when six pilots began training together.

The process was rigorous. To be eligible, members had to have at least 1,000 flying hours and a squadron leader was required to have least 1,500 hours’ experience.

The team made its first public appearance a year later. They trailed plumes of red smoke over Al Ain in January 2010.

At the time, Lt Col Abdulla Al Amimi, who led the formation, said the objective was to demonstrate the skills of the Air Force pilots.

Months later, the team was trained by members of Frecce Tricolori, which flies the same aircraft, in Italy. They were coached further once they returned to the UAE.

It made its international aerobatic debut at the Dubai Airshow in 2011 and its first overseas performance the following year at the Yeovilton Air Day and the Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK.

The team has performed overseas several times since, including at the Swiss Air Force’s 100th anniversary show in Payerne in 2014.

What plane does the team fly?

The Aermacchi MB-339, a military jet trainer and light attack aircraft produced in Italy is used in the airshows.

The planes are painted in black, gold, white, red and green.

It is said the gold represents the UAE’s desert, while the black represents the oil reserves.

Seven aircraft are used in performances, but the team has 10 jets, six of which were already part of the UAE Air Force and another four which were owned by the Italian Air Force.

The jets were upgraded in Italy before being delivered to the UAE for use by Al Fursan.

They are equipped with dye tanks and smoke generators.

What do members do during performances?

Displays start with all seven aircraft flying in formation, trailing coloured smoke, before they perform tricks, including a solo performance.

Al Fursan’s signature manoeuvre, which closes a performance, involves two jets barrel rolls. round the rest of the formation.

When does Al Fursan usually perform?

The team performs at special events such as National Day, Formula 1 and during high profile visits.

This summer members also put on a special show to thank those working on the frontline against coronavirus, flying over hospitals in all seven emirates.

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