Saudi Arabia and Sudan to hold first joint air force drill

Joint exercises follow strengthening of ties between Riyadh and Khartoum in 2015.

Saudi Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets perform during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the King Faisal Air Academy at King Salman air base in Riyadh on January 25, 2017. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
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Khartoum // Sudan and Saudi Arabia will begin a joint air force drill this week, the first such manoeuvres since Khartoum allied with Riyadh after breaking ties with Tehran in 2015.

The exercises will be held from March 29 until April 12 in Meroe, north of Khartoum, and will involve hundreds of air force personnel from both countries, said Salaheddin Abdul Khalid, acting chief of staff of the Sudanese air force.

“The plan to hold these exercises was proposed by our brothers in Saudi Arabia,” Mr Abdul Khalid said. “We have been planning this exercise for nearly a year.”

He said the drills were aimed at improving the operational capacities of the two air forces, improving techniques related to air operations and promoting cooperation.

Sudan will participate in the manoeuvres with more than two dozen fighter planes including MiG-29s and Sukhoi jets. Saudi Arabia will have F-15s and Eurofighter Typhoons taking part.

A group of Saudi fighter pilots will also stage an air show in Khartoum between April 10 and 12.

Ties between Khartoum and Riyadh have strengthened since 2015, when Sudan joined the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen that is fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

“Saudi Arabia is now familiar with our skills and I am myself fighting in Yemen,” said Mr Abdul Khalid.

Analysts say the relationship serves both countries, with Sudan eager to ease its international isolation and Saudi Arabia looking for avenues for investment to reduce its dependence on oil.

* Agence France-Presse