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Martin Armstrong

Danger zone: UAE and Israel in joint air-force drills

Israel and the UAE do not have official diplomatic relations [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 March, 2017

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The United States and Italy are also taking part in the joint aviation exercises currently being hosted by Greece at the Andravida airbase in the Peloponnese peninsula
The United Arab Emirates is currently taking part in an air force training programme organised by Greece alongside Israel.

The Iniohos 2017 Air Force Exercise began on Monday 27 March and is set to last until April 6, based at the Andravida airbase in the northwest of the Peloponnese peninsula.

According to an official press release about the event put out by the Greek air force, the UAE is participating alongside the air forces of Israel, the United States and Italy -- in addition to Greece.

A patch produced to commemorate the event includes all four states' flags, in addition to that of Greece, along with the slogan "Act With Awareness".

A statement from the US military said that twelve US F-16C Fighting Falcons were taking part in the event.

It added that the exercises, in which units of the Greek army and navy are also taking part, were aimed at "enhancing the interoperability capabilities and skills amongst allied air forces in the accomplishment of joint operations and air defences" and ensuring "joint readiness and reassure our regional allies".

Israeli daily Haaretz reported the presence of F-16 aircraft from the UAE at the Andravida airbase.

The UAE's air force uses "Desert Falcon" F-16s specifically developed for conditions in the Arabian Gulf and manufactured by Texas-based US military hardware manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

The participation of the UAE was confirmed by Alexandros Chalkopoulos, a spokesman for the Greek Air Force, in comment to The New Arab.

"Iniohos 2017 is designed to provide realistic aircrew training in a simulated combat environment," said Chalkopoulos, commenting on current exercises taking place at the Andravida base.

"The main objectives are to provide advanced, realistic training in a tactical environment of combined air, ground, and surface threats."

Chalkopoulos noted that it was the first time that Greece had conducted aerial military training in coordination with the UAE.

However, it is not the first time that the UAE has embarked in joint manouvres with the Israeli air force, desipte the fact that the two states do not have official diplomatic relations. 

In August 2016 the two states, in addition to Pakistan and Spain, took part in "Red Flag" training exercises hosted by the US air force at the Nellis Air Force base in Nevada.

The UAE has also faced accusations in the past that it has purchased military equipment from Israel.

A 2013 report by the UK government affiliated Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills – in charge of overseeing security exports – reported that British authorities had processed hundreds of Israeli applications to purchase military hardware containing British parts for use by the Israeli military, or to configure in military systems consequently exported to third parties.

These included permit requests, dating to 2009, to supply drone components to the UAE, in addition to equipment including pilot helmets, aerial refuelling and radar systems, and systems to disrupt missile launches.

The Iniohos exercises come at a time when Israel is seeking to expand its military cooperation and holding of joint training with other states.

In November the Israeli Air Force is set to host a wide-scale exercise – involving participation from states including the US, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India, and Italy – in Israel.

The UAE is not expected to take part in that event.

The UAE Air Force is part of the US-led international coalition of states conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and routinely holds training exercises with the US.

The UAE ranks among the top 15 defence spenders worldwide according to Business Monitor International, with the majority of defence procurements purchased spent on the country’s Air Force, in addition to air defence systems.

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