Emirati Air Force & Defence Command
The United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF) is the air force of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE Air Force & Defence Command is funded by the seven emirates - Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qarwain - which form the UAE. As of 2012 the U.A.E. air force had about 4,000 personnel. The Air Force has advanced U.S. F-16 BLOCK 60 multirole fighter aircraft. Other equipment includes French Mirage 2000-9 fighters, British Hawk trainer aircraft, 36 transport aircraft and U.S. Apache and Black Hawk helicopters. In 2011, the UAE Air Force participated in Operation Unified Protector in Libya, conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground operations.
Its predecessor formation was established in 1968 when the Emirates were still under British rule and since then saw a continual reorganization and expansion in terms of both capability and aircraft numbers. Within the seven states of the United Arab Emirates, only Abu Dhabi had a truly combat-capable air force. The UAE Air Force history starts in 1968 when the Abu Dhabi Army Air Force was formed during the British rule. The UAE Air Force was established in May 1968, under the name "Air Wing", as part of the Abu Dhabi Defence Land Forces. The first Islander British Aircrafts entered service on the same day. After becoming the Abu Dhabi Air Force in 1972, major investments assured an expansion in terms of capabilities, quality and quantity of aircraft.
In July 1972, Air Wing was officially renamed the "UAE Air Force" with the first Air Wing Command formed on January 6, 1974, now celebrated as the "Air Force and Defence Day". The neighbouring Emirate of Dubai had also 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.
The Abu Dhabi and Dubai air forces are largely integrated into the UAE Air Force. Combat aircraft, trainers and transports are controlled jointly and four of the states have aircraft operated as royal flights. Although the integration of the two independent forces has been completed, a small degree of autonomy is existent at operational command level with the Western Air Command being headquartered in Abu Dhabi and the Central Air Command located in Dubai.
In 1974, the Air Defence Group was formed, with 20mm cannons. In the same year, the Group was called "Air Defence Command". In July 1975 a "30mm Regiment" was formed and on November 6, 1984 it was renamed as "35mm Battalion" which was later called "Saad Bin Abi Waqas Battalion". In June 1987, the Air Forces and Air Defence Command were unified under one command called "Air Force & Defence Command". The Special Operations Command is also existent having its own airbase and operating a wide range of helicopters.
Principal air force units include three fighter ground-attack squadrons, one fighter squadron, and one combat-capable trainer squadron. The air defense force has two brigades (three battalions). Currently there are six main air bases operational, split between the Western and Central Air Command. Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies has set up outstations to provide line maintenance services at UAE airports, including Sharjah International, RAK International, Al Ain International as well as the Al Bateen and Al Minhad airbases to serve the UAE Air Force. On 06 January 2011 General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, inaugurated the Liwa Airbase in the Western Region in celebration of "The 37th Unity Day of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence (AFAD)."
The UAE flew the Mirage 2000 in a ground attack role uring the first Gulf War. The original order to Dassault specified that the aircraft must be capable of firing US made weapons. When the first batch of 18 were delivered in 1987, much to the unpleasant surprise of the UAE, the aircraft matched only French specifications. To placate its customers Dassault offered to deliver the remaining aircraft in the same condition and then modify them on location. Research couldnot uncover if these modifications took place before Desert Storm.
During the first Gulf War avoiding fratricide was a major determinant in air-to-air Rules of Engagement [ROE]. Most coalition aircraft carried IFF transponders which enabled USAF F-15s and AWACS to discriminate between coalition and Iraqi aircraft. Friendly aircraft not so equipped relied on visual identification to prevent inadvertent engagements. French, Kuwaiti, and Qatari Air Force F-1s presented a unique problem as the Iraqis flew the same aircraft. This identification problem was compounded by the intelligence assessment that the best Iraqi pilots were assigned to F-1 units. Initially, coalition F-1s were kept on the ground so that friendly fighters knew any F-1s in the air were Iraqi.As the Iraqi air threat diminished, allied F-1s were allowed to fly missions. Because a slight Iraqi air threat existed throughout the war, F-1s were constrained in their employment. In terms of numbers of sorties, the smallest contributors to the coalition were the UAE and Qatar.
UAE, actually seven sheikdoms on the western shore of the Persian Gulf, is trying to diversify its arms sources, as have other Persian Gulf states. In the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, it bought French Mirage 2000s, but a faction in the UAE military pushed for a US fighter. By playing the United States and its European competitors against each other, UAE and other Persian Gulf states have acquired sophisticated weaponry at relatively low cost. After eliminating other modern fighters, such as the Rafale, Eurofighter, and Russian Su-37, UAE chose the F-16.
As of 2005 the Air Force had 106 combat aircraft and 59 armed helicopters, as well as assorted reconnaissance aircraft, transport aircraft, transport helicopters, search-and-rescue helicopters, training aircraft, and both air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. Air force capabilities have been upgraded significantly through the acquisition of 80 F-16 combat aircraft and 33 multirole Mirage 2000-9 combat aircraft and the upgrading of the 30 Mirage combat aircraft already in the inventory.
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