ABU DHABI // UAE and Italian forces are conducting naval exercises this week in the Arabian Gulf, as the Emirates awaits delivery of its first stealth ship.
The Leading Edge 2013 exercise, which began on January 27 and will continue until Thursday, is in collaboration with US and Bahraini military units.
The exercise aims to improve international cooperation against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and provide an exchange expertise, said Commander Massimiliano Lauretti, the commanding officer of the Italian stealth patrol vessel Cigala Fulgosi.
The Cigala Fulgosi, commissioned in 2001, is a Commandante-class light battle ship with stealth capabilities, and is of the same class as the new UAE Navy ship.
The Abu Dhabi-class ship is due to be unveiled at the International Defence Exhibition (Idex), to be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre from February 17 to 21.
"The ship … conducts patrol, surveillance and security operations," said Commander Lauretti.
UAE and Italian forces carried out a number of exercises that involved boarding, searching and seizing vessels.
"The UAE team was very good in executing the tasks and we had a very good experience, where we exchanged a lot of information and learnt things from each other," he said.
Giorgio Starace, the Italian ambassador, said the new UAE ship, built by the Italian shipwright Fincantieri, will have the latest technology.
"The Abu Dhabi-class ships that will be commissioned will be the equivalent of a Ferrari. It has the top-of-the-line specs of Italian technology," Mr Starace said.
"This military and security cooperation between Italy and the UAE is not just a simple cooperation, it is a partnership that is progressing very quickly."
Last November, after the visit of Italian prime minister Mario Monti, the UAE and Italy signed a defence cooperation agreement that was political and technical, Mr Starace said.
Lt Col Pietro Carrozza, the Italian deputy defence attache, said many points in the agreement involving combined exercises and consultations had been fulfilled.
"The cooperation has been incredibly rapid and successful, with 90 per cent of our combined objectives achieved," Lt Col Carrozza said.
Commander Lauretti said UAE naval officers would be travelling to Italy and stationed as observers in various operations with the Italian navy this year.
"There are four visits every year from the UAE Navy, according to our agreements," said Lt Col Carrozza.
Mr Starace said the Italian presence this year at Idex would be significant, with more than 30 companies exhibiting.
"We hope to achieve more partnerships in the UAE with companies such as Tawazun and Mubadala to develop new technologies," he said.
"The UAE is going to become the centre of reference in the security, defence and military industries."
An agreement to transfer technology is in force at Etihad Ship Building in Abu Dhabi, which is a joint venture between Fincantieri and Al Fattan Ship Industries.
The Abu Dhabi-class ship's main missions are long and medium-range patrols, primarily for surveillance but also for combat.
"We have conducted anti-piracy operations, seizures and defensive operations," Commander Lauretti said.
"The Cigala Fulgosi is usually stationed in the Mediterranean Sea, but we also conduct operations in the Horn of Africa, the Indian Ocean and most recently the Arabian Gulf.
"It has a top speed of 26 knots and has a high endurance, coupled with its control flexibility."
The ship operates with a crew of 80 and eight officers.
The overall length is 88.4 metres, the full load displacement is 1,520 tonnes, and it has a range of 3,500 nautical miles.
Its design incorporates low radar and infrared signatures, and it has a flight deck with access to a hangar.
The unique design of the Cigala Fulgosi's hull and superstructure has reduced its thermal and electromagnetic signatures, giving it stealth capability.
The reduction to the craft's radar signature allows it to carry out a variety of tasks, ranging from surveillance to checking sea waters for illegal immigration, said Commander Lauretti.