x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Armed forces complete exercises with UK naval task group

The UAE and the UK finished a week of exercises designed to prepare them for possible attacks by pirates and terrorists.

DUBAI // The military has completed a week of sea and land exercises with a visiting UK naval task group, as both countries seek to bolster co-operation with one another and other partners.

In the exercises, called Sea Khanjar and involving five British warships, 100 Emirati personnel and their UK colleagues defended themselves against "enemy" aircraft and fast-moving inshore attack craft.

They conducted drills that involved boarding vessels and operating helicopters - skills common in anti-piracy and maritime security operations.

They also practised live-range firing and fighting in built-up areas at facilities in Al Hamra.

"Sea Khanjar has allowed both nations to share experience, skills and equipment," said Capt James Morley, the commanding officer of HMS Albion, the flagship of the Royal Navy and part of the task force.

The drills were the latest in a series of UAE Armed Forces co-operations with naval forces of other countries.

In April, military members practised manoeuvring on the water and communications with a visiting set of Nato minesweepers.

And last month, the forces conducted counter-piracy exercises with a visiting Turkish task force.

About 10 South Korean special forces are expected to arrive this month to train Emirati troops in counter-piracy.

For its part, during this visit to the Middle East the British task group also conducted exercises with Saudi Arabia and Oman.

It is part of a new response force task group announced last year as the "heart" of Britain's maritime capabilities.

Since leaving British waters in April, the group has conducted exercises off Cyprus and with Albanian forces, and has assisted Nato operations in Libya.

Two ships from the task force stayed in the Mediterranean to support Nato.

Other vessels including HMS Albion, the frigate HMS Sutherland, the survey ship HMS Echo and the minehunters HMS Middleton and HMS Pembroke continued on to planned military exercises in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.

"The Middle East is a vital artery of world trade," said Commodore Tim Fraser, the head of the UK maritime component command, who oversees the navy in the Middle East.

"The work of the Royal Navy in this part of the world is invaluable to the UK's own defence and security, as well as that of the wider region."

chuang@thenational.ae