February 3, 2011 (by SSgt. Benjamin Wilson) - The United Arab Emirates air force recently flew a squadron of F-16 block 60 Desert Falcons across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time to participate in Red Flag 11-2 and strengthen partnerships with allied nations.
UAEAF maintainer gives hand signals to a F-16D block 60 (#3020) pilot after a mission during Exercise Red Flag 11-2 at Nellis AFB on January 31st, 2011. [USAF photo by SSgt. Benjamin Wilson]
This is the second time the United Arab Emirates
has trained in a Red Flag exercise, but the first time they have made the long journey from their home nation.
"The first time, the jets were at Tucson and they brought them up here on a short ferry flight, then just dropped them back off," said Maj. Kevin Daugherty, F-16 extended training service specialist pilot.
Flying the transatlantic flight provided an excellent training opportunity for the F-16 squadron, but was not without its challenges.
"Bringing a squadron from the U.S. is much easier than flying 9,000 miles from our home," said Lt. Col. Buti Al Neyadi, Saheen3 squadron commander. "[During the flight] nothing continued as planned, regarding the diverting, the availability of tankers and diplomatically, which made it a challenge, but I can say we achieved 100 percent success arriving here."
However, there is a reason for making the 10-hour flight, he said. It builds experience utilizing the air force outside of the United Arab Emirates and coordinating with the U.S.
The experience gained by the squadron during the journey will help the pilots reach the goals set for the exercise.
"Our goal is to strengthen our training and partnership with the United States and to build up interoperability with the U.S.," Colonel Neyadi said.
Interoperability is not only important to the United Arab Emirates, but also to the U.S. Air Force.
"The U.A.E. is an important regional ally," Major Daugherty said. "We operate from bases in the region and rely on the U.A.E. as a regional partner and they are becoming a truly important ally.
"For us to practice together, to train together and to learn to interoperate is very important for any future operations, contingencies or even training."
The importance of an air force capable of working with other nations is a lesson learned from past conflicts that can be applied to train for today's and tomorrow's fight.
"After Desert Storm, we realized that the air force played a big role in the freedom of Kuwait," Colonel Neyadi said. "At that time we started modernizing our air force.
"The environment that the world is facing, like fighting terrorist and asymmetric warfare, really puts more demand on interoperability and working together to fight. [Training together] is an important element that needs to be focused on more between our nation."