United Arab Emirates
By Marco Dijkshoorn
The United Arab Emirates (or Al Imarat al Arabiyah al Muttahidah) are settled between Saudi Arabia, Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
During the Middle Ages the trade in the Gulf region was mostly controlled by the kingdom of Hormuz to which much of the region belonged. In 1498, the Portuguese started their occupation policy and by 1515 occupied Julfar near Ras al-Khaimah. The Portuguese remained in the region until 1633 to be directly followed by the British. The area was then known as "the Trucial Coast", a name that would not change until 1971.
The original plan of the British was to form a single state consisting of Bahrain, Qatar and the Trucial Coast, but this idea never found good political soil. Eventually the independence of Bahrain and Qatar were negotiated and the formation of a new federation (the United Arab Emirates) in 1971 became a fact. Since then the UAE states have thrived on their rich oil resources and its sheikhdoms are considered as the safest and politically most stable in the Arab world. It was left to the British to demarcate the borders of the seven sovereign sheikhdoms (emirates) that would eventually make up the UAE. Being:
- Abu Dhabi (Abu Zaby)
- Dubai (Dubayy)
- Ajman ('Ajman)
- Fujairah (Al Fujayrah)
- Sharjah (Ash Shariqah)
- Ras-Al-Kaimah (Ra's al Khaymah)
- Umm Al Qaiwain (Umm al Qaywayn)
Source (among others) Lonely Planet
While the British were still present in the Gulf region, British trained Arab security forces and personal bodyguard units of the ruling sheikhs. These eventually formed the Trucial Coast defense force. Under British command it was that in 1951 the Trucial Oman Levies (later to be called the Trucial Oman Scouts) were instated. At the time of independence and federation, the Trucial Oman Scouts became the nucleus of the Union Defense Force (UDF). When the United Arab Emirates became independent on 2 December 1971 the UAE Defence Forces were a fact. By then the scouts consisted of approximately 1600 well trained men that had been responsible for maintaining public order in the region.
The defense forces of the UAE have always been multi-cultural and they rely heavily on troop forces from other Arab countries and Pakistan. Contradictory to the time that the British led the UAE armed forces, most of the officers are UAE nationals nowadays. Currently the UAE Armed Forces consists of about 60.000 troops that are headquartered in Abu Dhabi. Besides these troops approximately 12.000 troops make up the Central Military Command with Dubai's defense as its primary responsibility.
Having Headquarters at Bateen AFB, Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates Air Force & Air Defence is divided in two commands, located at the two most powerful sheikhdoms of Abu Dhabi (by far the largest) in the west and Dubai in the North-East. The UAE Air Force consists of about 1.800 troops and its most modern assets include Dassault Mirage 2000's, British Aerospace (BAE systems) Hawks and Boeing AH-64A Apache helicopters. Flight training is performed at Al Ain Air Base in the east, near the Omani border. Equipped with twelve German built Grob G115TAs, Swiss Pilatus PC-7s and BAE Hawk Jet trainers, the Flying Training School (FTS) is living up to his name. Pilots that qualify for helicopter operations are trained on the AS350B Ecureuil and SA342 Gazelle helicopters.
The fighter fleet of the Western Air Command of Abu Dhabi can be found on Al Dhafra Air Force Base, just east of the capital of Abu Dhabi. The remaining 34 Mirage 2000s are stationed here as well as the AH-64A Apache helicopters. The transport core is formed by Lockheed Hercules and Indonesian (IPTN/IAe) built CN-235 aircraft, all flying from Bateen Air Force Base. The UAE Air Force will be reinforced soon now the approval of the US congress enables the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company to deliver eighty new Block 60 F-16s that are officially designated F-16E/F. These Fighting Falcons are scheduled for delivery from 2004 through 2007. The UAE has an outstanding order for 30 Mirage 2000-9 aircraft, a customized version of the 2000-5 with additional air to ground capabilities. First deliveries have taken place in 2003. The United Arab Emirates Air Force & Air Defence also planned to upgrade its current fleet of 33 Mirage 2000s to the -9 standard and the first retrofitted Mirage 2000s are already active. Other recent development is the request for US Congress approval for delivery of two E-2C Hawkeye 2000 AEW platforms.
The Central Air Command forming Dubai Air Force operates out of three airbases spread across the west coast. From Minhad Air Force Base a variety of helicopters are operated by Helicopter Squadron and Fighter Squadron operates Hawk T61s. The transport fleet flies out of Dubai International Airport and consists of a pair of stretched Hercules, two Pilatus PC-6/B2-H4 Porters, a SC-7M Skyvan, a Shorts SD330 Sherpa and Bell 206 helicopters. The local Air Academy operates Agusta Bell 206s and Aermacchi MB339s.
The UAE Navy operates AS332 Super Puma's and AS565 Panthers from Bateen AFB.
Besides the Air Force, a huge fleet of helicopters and some small aircraft are operated by three different Police Air Fleets. These are the Dubai Police Air Wing (from Dubai Int'l), Sharjah Police Air Wing (from Sharjah Int'l) and the less know and recently formed Ras-Al-Khaimah Police Air Wing (from Ras-Al-Khaimah Int'l).
The many Sheikhs have their own means of transportation, organized in some six Government Flight Services. The two biggest by far are the Abu Dhabi Amiri Flight (Private Flight Directorate) flying from Bateen Airport, Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Air Wing flying from Dubai International Airport. Both Government flights operate a scale of aircraft varying from the twin-prop Beech 350 Super King Air to miscellaneous Boeing B747 derivates!