‘The Emiratis are excellent hosts – I’m very impressed by their capabilities’: UAE and UK join forces for air combat war games

During the exercise, the RAF worked with their Emirati peers to improve both air forces’ ability to fight alongside each other.

31 Squadron Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircrew prepare for take-off in the UAE for the advanced tactical leadership course. Sergeant Ross Tilly / RAF
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ABU DHABI // The commander of the UK Royal Air Force’s operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan has praised the UAE for staging one of the world’s best air-combat exercises.

Air Commodore Al Gillespie spoke on Thursday, the final day of the advanced tactical leadership course (ATLC), an international major exercise hosted by the UAE Air Force.

Eight RAF Tornado GR4 jets from 31 Squadron, based at RAF Marham in England, took part in the exercise which began on March 16 and helped ensure the UAE and its allies could operate together to support security in the Arabian Gulf.

During the exercise, RAF battle managers and 31 Squadron worked with their Emirati peers to improve both air forces’ ability to fight alongside each other. The UAE’s expansive airspace provided the stage for intense air-to-air combat training.

Aircraft also practised air-to-surface tactics with support from the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Somerset.

Wing Commander Rich Yates, officer commanding 31 Squadron, said being in the UAE for the joint exercise had been a great experience.

“The UAE is a long-term friend with which the UK shares long-term interests. The welcome from our UAE hosts has been exceptional. They’re generous with their time and support and they provide excellent training. ATLC really is a great exercise.”

Flight Lieutenant Rob Manisty, 31 Squadron pilot, said: “The Emiratis are excellent hosts. I’m very impressed by their capabilities, and with my stay in Abu Dhabi.”

Air Commodore Al Gillespie, who commands the 83 Expeditionary Air Group, said he was delighted by the breadth of cooperation between the UK and the UAE.

“Last year the British prime minister, David Cameron, spoke of the ‘incredibly strong friendship’ between the UK and the UAE,” he said.

“During ATLC we see that friendship at work as our air forces share their knowledge and experience and become better able to defend our shared interests.

“This is one of the world’s very best air combat exercises and it sets the course for our air forces to work even closer together in the future, to the great benefit of the UK, the UAE and the wider region.”