UAE and UK to begin two weeks of sky-high military exercises

Tornado GR4 fighter jets will be used in the Shaheen Star military exercises.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton speaks to the media about upcoming military exercises with the UAE in Abu Dhabi. (Sammy Dallal / The National)
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ABU DHABI // A fleet of Tornado GR4s from the British Royal Air Force's 31 Squadron arrived in the UAE this week in preparation for joint military exercises with their Emirati counterparts.

Sir Stephen Dalton, air chief marshal at the Royal Air Force, said the Shaheen Star exercises would be conducted with the UAE Air Force over two weeks.

US and French air forces will join in on some of the missions.

"These exercises are designed to use multiple scenarios of a two-day period to test the ability to gauge reconnaissance, interdiction and defensive capabilities," Mr Dalton said.

This will be the second time Britain co-operates with the UAE in war games, following the 2010 Al Khanjar exercise.

"The last operations were with Typhoons but these exercises will take place with a fleet of Tornado GR4s to expand our interoperability and have a flexibility in combined operations," he said.

Scenarios that are being considered, he said, include ones involving missile attacks.

Mr Dalton said a second set of exercises would take place in December.

"These operations now will prepare our forces for combat. In December we will be conducting exercises at a command level with more senior officers."

Last year, the UAE sent a fleet of F16 jets to Libya to fight alongside British Typhoons and French Rafales.

"The operational readiness they showed when they joined the Nato campaign in Libya was impressive," Mr Dalton said.

"For a non-Nato partner, the UAE was quick to jump straight into the action. Their capabilities and readiness are comparable to the Swedish air force, which is clinical," he said.

Mr Dalton, who is the director of the Eurofighter Typhoon Programme at the UK defence ministry, said the UAE Air Force had "shown considerable interest" in adding Typhoons to its fleet.

The UAE Air Force requires 60 multi-role combat planes by 2017. Besides the Typhoon, which is made by a European consortium, contenders are believed to include the French-made Rafale and US-made F15s, F16s and F18s.