UAE troops impress in Gulf war games

A full-scale military training exercise played out on Umdaddi Hill on the western coast of Abu Dhabi yesterday.

AL HAMRA // As UAE Air Force F-16s and Mirage 2000-9s offered air cover alongside French Rafale 3s, three armoured personnel carriers transporting infantrymen entered deep into enemy territory, engaging with the remaining forces of resistance and blocking them from retaking a compromised hilltop.

The daylight assault involved a full air, ground and naval attack with 4,500 combined Emirati and French troops.

The full-scale military training exercise played out on Umdaddi Hill on the western coast of Abu Dhabi yesterday.

The united forces flexed their muscles under the joint command of Maj Gen (Staff) Pilot Rashad Mohammed Salem Al-Saadi, the UAE military spokesperson, and Rear Admiral Marin Gillier, commander of the French Navy special forces.

By the end of the exercise, they had left their well-armed enemy crippled.

It began after SAT-8 surveillance aircraft were used to locate the positions of the enemy on the hilltop.

"Intelligence reports have revealed air defence sites in the enemy-controlled locations and the information has been fed to the command to take action," Maj Gen Rashad announced over a loudspeaker.

After a shower of missiles were fired by descending Mirage 2000-9s and Rafale 3s, more reports came in from scouts about the air defence sites. With that information, the French Rafales fired guided missiles to eliminate the enemy's air defences.

Next, the UAE sent in its Leclerc Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), firing even more shells at the enemy locations to accurately destroy three targets.

The shelling continued for about 15 minutes before a break to let engineers pass through the area and clear ground for further advancement. UAE Apache Attack helicopters gave the engineers cover, and a path for the advancement of the Leclerc MBTs was quickly cleared.

Next, the Dhibyani armoured personnel carriers carrying the joint UAE French infantry squad - identified as Force 32 - landed on the beach and advanced alongside the Leclerc MBTs.

Five trucks with G6 155 millimetre long-range guns formed an artillery battery and fired deep into enemy territory as Force 32 began to engage the enemy.

When rapid-firing rocket launchers had rained dozens of missiles on the enemy, Force 32 swept the area for any remaining hostile forces.

The coordinated attack, played out in just 90 minutes, was closely watched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Flanking him were Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister, and Lt General Hamad Mohammed Thani Al Rumaithi, the Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces.

"There was no relation to what is going on currently in the political scene," said Maj Gen Al Saadi. "This exercise was part of our regular training schedule."

But he added that the operation had worked to raise the readiness of the armed forces. "We are getting more and more prepared and this event enabled us to better our performance on the battlefield and concentrate on joint operations areas that needed more work," said Maj Gen Al Saadi. "Overall, I was very satisfied with the performance."

The hilltop assault is one of several being carried out as part of the fifth Gulf 2012 Military Exercises, conducted between the UAE and French Armed Forces every four years.

The exercises began in 1996, a year after the UAE and France signed a defence agreement.

"This was the largest exercise we have conducted and the first time we used air, land and naval forces at once," said Rear Admiral Marin Gillier, Commander of the French Navy special forces in the UAE. "The UAE forces worked well on a technical level and an operational level in this operation."

The next joint operation will be held in 2016.