United Arab Emirates Air Force

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United Arab Emirates Air Force
United Arab Emirates Air Force.svg
United Arab Emirates Air Force emblem
Founded 1972
Country  United Arab Emirates
Type Military aviation
Role Aerial warfare
Size 573 aircraft (See table)
Part of Union Defence Force
Engagements Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
Military intervention against ISIL
Commanders
Commander Vice Marshal Ibrahim Nasser Mohammed Al Alawi
Insignia
Roundel Roundel of the United Arab Emirates.svg Roundel of the United Arab Emirates - Low Visibility.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack AH-64D, UH-60M
Fighter F-16E/F, Mirage 2000/2000-9
Patrol AS 550, AS 565
Reconnaissance Dash 8MMA, CN-235MPA
Trainer Hawk, MB-339, PC-7, G 115, AS 350, Alenia Aermacchi M-346
Transport C-130, CH-47, Puma, Super Puma, Bell 214, Bell 412, CN-235, Cessna 208, AS 365, C-130H Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, Airbus A330 MRTT

The United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF) is the air force of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Its predecessor was established in 1968, when the Emirates were still under British rule. Since then, it has undergone a continual reorganisation and expansion in terms of both capability and numbers of aircraft. Currently, the UAEAF has around 4,000 personnel and operates approximately 573 fixed and rotorcraft.

History

The UAEAF's history starts in 1968, when the Abu Dhabi Army Air Force was formed under British rule. After becoming the ALRAMS Air Force in 1972, major investment assured an expansion in terms of capabilities, quality and quantity of aircraft.[1] Training and instruction was provided by the Pakistan Air Force. Neighbour Emirate of Dubai maintained its own air component, the Dubai Defence Force Air Wing, until 1999, when the two were effectively merged to become what is now the United Arab Emirates Air Force. Although the integration of the two independent forces has been complete, a small degree of autonomy exists at the operational command level, with the Western Air Command being headquartered in Abu Dhabi and the Central Air Command in Dubai.[1]

Since the 1980s, a combination of regional instability and high oil prices has resulted in an ambitious modernisation of the UAEAF, with the goal of attaining a level of capability matching the highest NATO standards.[1]

In 2014, the United Arab Emirates Air Force along with the Egyptian Air Force carried out airstrikes in Libya against Islamist factions in Tripoli.[2][3][4]

In September 2014, UAE air force aircraft joined in US-led air strikes against terrorist targets in Syria and Iraq that later became known as Operation Inherent Resolve. These operations were suspended after a Jordanian pilot was captured by Islamic State militants in late December 2014; pending improvements in US search and rescue capabilities in the region.

Personnel and training

The UAEAF consists of about 4,000 personnel.[5]

In the 1970s and 80s, the UAEAF was instructed by Pakistan Air Force pilots on Dassault Mirage IIIs, the backbone of the UAEAF at the time. Even today, many of the personnel are ex-Pakistan Air Force officers and technicians.[citation needed] Most of the flying instructors at Al Ain are from Pakistan, training pilots using Grob G 115, Pilatus PC-7, Aermacchi MB-339, and BAE Hawk 63 aircraft. A few officers of No. 12 Squadron (Hawk 102) at Al Minhad Air Base, are also from the Pakistan Air Force. Some of these officers are on deputation (active service), but most are on civilian contracts with the Air Force Headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Numerous officers of other nationalities have also trained UAE pilots, among them Pakistanis, Moroccans, Canadians, Jordanians, and South Africans.

Women have started training as pilots. The first batch consisted of engineers given approval for flight training. So far, only three women have become actual fighter pilots and one a transport pilot. One woman pilot was grounded due to an ejection from a training flight in a Hawk 63. Instructors at Al Dhafra Air Base are now mainly from the US, as the UAEAF has retired its Mirage IIIs in favour of F-16s.

Currently there are five main air bases operational, split between the Western and Central Air Command. The Special Operations Command has its own airbase and operates a wide range of helicopters.

Candidates apply to the Khalifa bin Zayed Air College, which is located at the Al Ain International Airport in Al Ain. They first go through a rigorous schedule of academics (Basic Level: Military Sciences), fitness and officer training. Those who are selected as cadets then start the second phase of academics: Flight Sciences (Aeronautical Science). Cadets who pass the assessment period of the second phase are designated aviation cadets and start flight training. The first aircraft cadets get to fly is the Grob G115 TA. Those who qualify then go on to fly the Pilatus PC-7. On this aircraft, they learn the basics of flying, take-off and landing techniques and procedures followed by a bit of aerobatics. Following the Primary Flying Course is the Basic Flight Course, piloting the Hawk 63. Graduates are graded and assigned accordingly to one of three options: the Advanced Strike course at Minhad on the Hawk 102 aircraft, transport aircraft, and helicopters. At Minhad, the new pilots learn Basic Fighters Manoeuvres, drop bombs and learn to fly cross-country to a neighbouring country, commonly Bahrain or Kuwait. Upon completion of the Advanced Strike course, officers are selected either for the F-16 (Block 60) or the Dassault Mirage 2000-9, both at Al Dhafra AB. A few pilots are selected to learn to fly the F-16 with the United States Air Force's 162d Fighter Wing in Tucson, Arizona.

Current state

A Mirage 2000 fighter of the UAEAF

2007 marked the culmination of the largest procurement programmes ever undertaken by the UAE Air Force, with the final deliveries of the 80 F-16E/F Block 60 "Desert Falcons" and approximately 60 upgraded Mirage 2000-9, giving the air force a considerable multirole capability.[6] These two investments represented a total expenditure of around $10 billion, with additional money spent on infrastructure and logistics.[1] A $6.4 billion contract with Lockheed Martin for the supply and support of the 80 F-16s was signed in March 2000, while a $3.4 billion deal for the purchase of 30 new Mirage 2000-9 and retrofitting of the 33 older UAE Mirage 2000s was signed earlier in 1998.[7] Missiles were also purchased: 160 AGM-88 HARMs, 1,000 or more AGM-65 Mavericks, about 500 AIM-120 AMRAAMs, 270 AIM-9 Sidewinders and 52 AGM-84 Harpoons.[7] In November 2017, the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces announced their intention to sign a contract with Dassault Aviation for the upgrade of its Mirage 2000-9 aircraft. French newspaper La Tribune reported the modernization would cost roughly €300 million.[8]

After a competition between the BAE Hawk, KAI T-50 Golden Eagle and Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master, the UAEAF announced the acquisition of 48 trainer and light attack aircraft, with the first deliveries to take place in 2012.[9] The other training types that are thought to be near replacement are the 30 Pilatus PC-7s and five Aermacchi MB-339s serving with the Air Academy at Al Ain.[10]

The UAEAF has operated 20 IAR 330 Puma helicopters since the late 1970s. These have been recently upgraded to the IAR-330SM standard by IAR Ghimbav in Romania in cooperation with Eurocopter.[11] These aircraft, supplemented by a further ten ex-South African Air Force reworked SA-330s, are expected to remain in service for at least 15 years.[12] Although no replacement for the Puma fleet is required in the immediate future, the force will be supplemented by 26 Sikorsky UH-60M Battlehawks, with 390 AGM-114N Hellfire II missiles.[13] 30 AH-64A Apache helicopters were modernised as well, to the AH-64D Longbow standard, and a dozen Eurocopter Fennecs were recently acquired for special forces use.[10]

The most important facility of the UAEAF is the Al Dhafra Air Base, with almost the entire fighter aircraft fleet located there. However, in order to prevent all of the air defence and strike assets being located at a single base, a $1 billion, completely new facility has been constructed deep in the Abu Dhabi desert,[1] near the border corner with Saudi Arabia and Oman, near Al Gharbia, housing at least one Mirage 2000 unit. Al-Safran is believed to have opened between around 2008[14]. It is 3,000 m long and has aircraft parking nearly the same size as in Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. A 4,000 m runway at Al-Safran air base was built around 2008.[15]

Structure

As of 2008, the structure of the United Arab Emirates Air Force is as follows:[12]

Western Air Command - HQ at Abu Dhabi

  • Fighter Wing - Al Dhafra Air Base
    • 1st Shaheen Squadron - F-16E/F Block 60 Desert Falcon
    • 2nd Shaheen Squadron - F-16E/F Desert Falcon
    • 3rd Shaheen Squadron - F-16E/F Desert Falcon
    • 71st Fighter Squadron - Mirage 2000-9EAD/DAD
    • 76th Fighter Squadron - Mirage 2000-9EAD/DAD
    • 86th Fighter Squadron - Mirage 2000-9EAD/DAD (Al Safran Air Base)
Lockheed L-100 of the UAE Air Force at Geneva International Airport, 2003

Central Air Command - HQ at Dubai

  • Al Minhad Air Base (helicopter base)
    • 102nd CAS Squadron - BAE Hawk Mk.102
    • Transport Squadron - C-130H-30, L-100-30 Hercules
    • Special electronic missions Squadron Saab 340 AEW&C
    • Air-to-air refueling Squadron Airbus A330 MRTT
  • Dubai International Airport (transport aircraft)

Special Operations Command - HQ at Abu Dhabi

Army Command - HQ at Abu Dhabi

  • 10th Army Aviation Brigade - Al Dhafra AB - AS.550C3 Fennec and AH-64A Apache

Aircraft

Current inventory

A United Arab Emirates Mirage 2000 in flight
A F-16E on take-off
A Lockheed C-130H Hercules
An AW139 on lift off
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Mirage 2000 France multirole 2000-9/EAD/RAD 49[16]
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States multirole F-16E 55[16]
AWACS
Saab 2000 Sweden AEW&C 2[16] equipped with the Erieye radar
Bombardier Global Express Canada early warning and control GlobalEye AEW 2 on order[16]
Maritime patrol
Bombardier Dash 8 Canada maritime patrol MPA-D8 2 on order[16]
Tanker
Airbus A330 MRTT France aerial refueling / transport KC-30A 3[16]
Transport
King Air United States utility 350 2[16]
Saab 340 Sweden transport 2[16]
PAC P-750 New Zealand light utility 1[16]
Cessna 208 United States transport / utility 2[16]
Boeing C-17 United States heavy transport 8[16]
Piaggio P.180 Italy VIP 2[16]
CASA CN-235 Spain / Indonesia transport 7[16]
C-130 Hercules United States transport C-130H/L-100 8[16]
Helicopters
Bell 412 United States utility / SAR 4[16]
Bell 407 United States light utility 1[16]
AgustaWestland AW139 Italy utility / VIP 8[16]
Trainer Aircraft
Bell 407 United States rotorcraft trainer 12[16]
King Air United States multi-engine trainer 90 2[16]
BAE Hawk United Kingdom jet trainer Hawk 61/63/102 31[16]
Grob G 115 Germany light trainer 12[16]
Pilatus PC-7 Switzerland advanced trainer 31[16]
Pilatus PC-21 Switzerland advanced trainer 25[16]
Mirage 2000 France conversion trainer 2000-9/DAD 15[16]
GippsAero GA8 Australia trainer 1[16]
Aermacchi MB-339 Italy jet trainer 12[16]
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States conversion trainer F-16F 23[16]
UAV
Denel Dynamics Seeker South Africa surveillance Seeker II 11[17]
MQ-1 Predator United States surveillance Predator XP on order[18]

Joint Air Command

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
AT-802 United States COIN / attack 18[16]
Reconnaissance
Marsh S2R United States reconnaissance 2 22 on order[16]
Cessna 208 United States surveillance / utility 1[16]
DHC-6 Twin Otter Canada surveillance / utility 3[16] STOL capable aircraft
Transport
Cessna 208 United States transport / utility 7[16]
DHC-6 Twin Otter Canada transport / utility 7[16] STOL capable aircraft
Helicopters
Bell 407 United States light utility 27[16]
AH-64 Apache United States attack AH-64D/E 30[16]
CH-47 Chinook United States transport / utility CH-47C/F 19 12 obtained from Libya - 5 on order[19][16]
Sikorsky UH-60 United States utility UH-60L/M 60[16]
Eurocopter AS565 France SAR 13[16]
Eurocopter AS350 France liaison 14[16]
AgustaWestland AW139 Italy utility 6[16]
Trainer Aircraft
Eurocopter AS350 France rotorcraft trainer 1[16]

Aircraft weapons

Future equipment

Type Country Class Role Date Status Notes
AH-64E Apache United States helicopter attack 37 28 re-manufactured plus 9 new-build aircraft approved in 2016[21]
F-16E/F Fighting Falcon United States jet multi-role fighter 25[22] addition to existing inventory
Global 6000 Erieye Canada / Sweden jet airborne early warning 3[23] for 2018-2019 delivery[23]
Guardian 400 Canada prop maritime patrol 4 to be built by Viking Air
Next-Generation Fighter United Arab Emirates jet multi-role fighter Request for proposals made to Boeing (F/A-18H/I Advanced Super Hornet), Dassault (Rafale), Eurofighter (Typhoon), Lockheed Martin (F-35A Lightning II) and Sukhoi (Su-57).[24]
M-346 Master Italy jet trainer/light attack 20 final assembly in Abu Dhabi by Mubadala.[9]
Order on hold due to disagreement over contract specifications.[25]

Retired equipment

Type Origin Class Role Introduced Retired Total Notes
Mirage 5AD  France jet ground attack 1973 12 Used by Abu Dhabi and Western Air Command
Mirage 5DAD  France jet operational trainer 1973 3 Used by Abu Dhabi and Western Air Command
Mirage 5EAD  France jet fighter-bomber 1973 14 Used by Abu Dhabi and Western Air Command
Mirage 5RAD  France jet reconnaissance 1973 3 Used by Abu Dhabi and Western Air Command
MB-326KD  Italy jet ground attack 1976 6 Used by Dubai
MB-326LD  Italy jet advanced trainer 1976 2 Used by Dubai
G.222L  Italy prop tactical transport 1976 1 Used by Dubai
C-212-200 Aviocar  Spain prop tactical transport 1982 4 Used by Abu Dhabi
PC-6B2-H4 Turbo Porter   Switzerland prop utility transport 1989 2006 2 Used by Dubai
SA 316B Alouette III  France helicopter utility transport 1972 10 Used by Abu Dhabi
SA 342L Gazelle  France helicopter scout 1979 12 Used by Abu Dhabi
Bo 105CBS  Germany helicopter utility 1981 3 Used by Dubai

See also

References

  • "Force Report: UAE Air Force & Air Defence", AirForces Monthly magazine, January 2008 issue.
Footnotes
Citations
  1. ^ a b c d e AirForces Monthly, p. 60.
  2. ^ "Egypt, UAE carried out Tripoli air strikes: U.S. officials". Reuters. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Libya crisis: US 'caught off-guard' by air strikes". BBC News. BBC. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  4. ^ Kirkpatrick, David; Schmitt, Eric (25 August 2014). "Arab Nations Strike in Libya, Surprising U.S". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "Background Note: United Arab Emirates". US Department of State. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  6. ^ "UAE eyes France's Rafale fighter". AFP. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  7. ^ a b AirForces Monthly, p. 61.
  8. ^ Tran, Pierre (14 November 2017). "Dassault to modernize UAE's Mirage fleet for a reported $350M". Defense News. Paris. Archived from the original on 14 November 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017. 
  9. ^ a b "UAE Gives M346 a LIFT". Defense Industry Daily. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  10. ^ a b AirForces Monthly, p. 62.
  11. ^ "Eurocopter Romania awaits UAE contract". Jane's Intelligence Weekly. Archived from the original on August 7, 2003. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  12. ^ a b AirForces Monthly, p. 63.
  13. ^ "UAE Ordering Weaponized UH-60M 'Battlehawk' Helicopters". Defense Industry Daily. 17 September 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  14. ^ http://aviationweek.com/blog/uae-s-mysterious-airbase
  15. ^ Osborne, Tony (2 April 2015). "UAE's Mysterious Airbase". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao "World Air Forces 2017". Flightglobal Insight. 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017. 
  17. ^ "SIPRI Arms Transfers Database". SIPRI. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  18. ^ "UAE to purchase General Atomics Predators". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 25 September 2017. 
  19. ^ "UAE awards contracts for CH-47 upgrade". flightglobal.com. Retrieved 25 September 2017. 
  20. ^ a b c d e "United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  21. ^ "United Arab Emirates - Apache AH-64E Helicopters and Services". Defense Security Cooperation Agency. 8 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  22. ^ [1] Archived June 10, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ a b "UAE, Saab Strike $1.27 Billion Erieye Deal - Dubai Air Show 2015 content from Aviation Week". Aviation Week. 
  24. ^ http://defense-watch.com/2017/04/21/uae-talks-purchase-russian-su-35-fighter-jets/
  25. ^ "UAE Reopens Talks To Buy T-50 Trainer". defensenews.com. Retrieved 16 January 2017. 

External links

  • UAE Air Force Order of Battle
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