The U.A.E. Navy is small -- about 2,500 personnel -- but modernized and well trained. Presently designed for coastal defense, it maintains well-equipped coastal patrol boats and missile boats. The navy is based in Abu Dhabi, with additional facilities in Dubai, Ras al Khaymah, and Sharjah. The navy also included a marine battalion.
Maritime capacity in the region can be best described by dividing the Gulf states into two distinct groups: regional powers and small regional actors. Those in the first group are Iran and Saudi Arabia. The other the smaller states have difficult adequately manning, equipping, and training their own forces due to financial constraints or relatively low populations. Some of the smaller states, such as UAE and Oman, have built modern maritime forces, but lack sufficient manpower resources from which to draw personnel. While the UAE Navy is more formidable than the navies of the smaller Gulf countries, it is smaller than those of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Although historically a coastal force, the navy is expanding its role to include blue-water capabilities, envisioning s forces able to conduct and sustain operations throughout the Gulf region, the Arabian Ocean, and as far as the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The navy is modernizing and expand its fleet through foreign procurement and domestic shipbuilding. This expansion has been hindered by manpower shortages, a problem within the UAE military as a whole. The reliance on foreign expertise and manning reduces the overall effectiveness of an otherwise capable force.
The UAE's naval security is distributed between several commands. The UAE Navy is concerned primarily with countering the Iranian Navy and IRGC-N. Its acquisition of units such as the new Baynunah class corvette reflects its focus on conventional naval threats. The Coast Guard is primarily responsible for securing Emirati territorial waters and offshore economic interests. Long considered somewhat of a stepchild passed between Ministry of Interior and the Navy, the UAE Coast Guard is now an independent military service which has been receiving increased government resources.
The UAE has a longstanding dispute with Iran overthe sovereignty of three islands—Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb—near tankerroutes to the Strait of Hormuz, which were seized by the Shah of Iran after the British withdrew from the Gulf in the early 1970s. The islands were militarily occupied by the Iranians in 1992 when Tehran claimed that they were an “inseparable part of Iran.” The UAE navy could try to reassert control of the disputed islands, and maintains an amphibious assault capability in support of this requirement.
The UAE Navy frequently exercises with other Navies operating in the Gulf. In January 2010, operating in the Gulf region as part of Operation Telic, HMS Monmouth (The Black Duke) recently participated in Exercise Stakenet Plus. The exercise lasted 11 days with 22 ships from the UK, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, France and the US taking part. The aim of Stakenet Plus was to test a range of scenarios in order to develop regional capacity for the protection of key economic and energy infrastructure in the region. The provision of maritime protection to oil platforms, a major source of income for this area of the world and a key function of the Operation Telic tasking, was practiced in a variety of situations to ensure all units remain fully ready to deter any potential aggressors in the region.
The search and rescue aspect of the exercise centerd round UAENS Bani Yas. Here the UAE ship sustained simulated “damage” after a fire in her engine room. The scenario had the crew simulating extinguishing the fire but suffering several casualties in the process. Monmouth sent her search and rescue teams, including medical care and associated equipment, to aid the ‘debilitated’ vessel and their crew. The Black Duke’s Salvage Officer, Lieutenant Commander Gary Rawlings, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for the rescue and assistance teams to practice one of our most important capabilities. A great deal was learnt which could realistically be put into practice for real whilst we are deployed on operations.”
Many nations have deployed their naval assets off the coast of Somalia in an effort to counter piracy, especially in the strategic shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden. Navies, including those of the UAE, coalition forces and regional nations, have met Somali pirates with force; however, piracy continues to be a growing international problem. An international anti-piracy conference was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 18 and 19, 2011. Held under the theme "Global Challenge, Regional Responses: Forging A Common Approach to Maritime Piracy," the meeting focused on finding ways to counter the recent spike in criminal activity at sea, off the Somali coast and in the Arabian Sea. This was the first time the UAE has held an international conference on the topic, taking a strong stand on the problem and proving that they are ready to step up and assist in the fight against piracy.
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