UAE Armed Forces pull off massive military spectacle in Al Ain
Red flares billow in the wind, mingling with blackened smoke as a tank approaches a single-storey building.
Ground teams file out of military vehicles and line up against the wall, taking a moment before darting into the building one-by-one. Shots ring out as they clear each room of the “terrorists” within. Helicopters circle above them as a fighter jet shoots across the sky. The men emerge from the building, victorious. The drill is a success and the crowds cheer.
This scene was just one of many military exercises on show during the third Union Fortress parade on Saturday.
Thousands of spectators gathered at Al Ain International Airport to watch one of the largest military spectacles demonstrated by the UAE Armed Forces.
Dozens of fighter jets and helicopters soared over the crowds as the jets painted the Al Ain sky in the colours of the UAE flag. Meanwhile special forces and ground combat troops executed military drills below.
At one point an F16 fighter jet was dispatched to deal with a group of enemies while tanks deployed on ground waited for teams to remove landmines before they could advance towards buildings occupied by enemies.
Troops on ground had to overpower the enemy and protect the people within. With the help of P3 tanks, the Armed Forces unit managed to liberate the buildings by shooting specific targets.
Elsewhere, explosions punctuated a scenario whereby members of the Presidential Guard had to protect a senior official who was under attack by terrorists while being transported in a black SUV.
Sirens blared and dozens of vehicles encircled the car as it sped from one end of the airport to another, kicking up a cloud of dust in its wake before screeching to a halt. The official was freed from the terrorists’ grip with the protection from a ground force unit and armed soldiers hanging out of helicopters, covering them from above.
Throughout the show, the presenter who described to the crowd what the mock situation was could barely heard over the sounds of air forces flying above.
The grand military display was also performed to patriotic music as pictures of the UAE's rulers and leaders were projected onto large screens dotted around for the audience to see.
In a show of national pride, two military pilots parachuted down from a helicopter holding UAE flags. And later, men riding horses carried the country’s banner as they galloped across the airport.
Visitors from across the Emirates and indeed the Arab World watched in awe as the strength of the UAE was displayed.
Volunteers from Emirates Red Crescent wove through the crowds distributing bottles of water to ensure visitors stayed hydrated and cool as temperatures peaked at a balmy 33C.
The first Union Fortress show, in Abu Dhabi, was held in March last year and attracted huge crowds that turned out to watch an amphibious assault, helicopter exercises and a fly-by by the Al Fursan aerobatics squadron.
The first-time event was attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and sheikhs, military commanders and officials.
The second military demonstration was held eight months later in Sharjah to much praise from the emirate’s ruler.
At the event attended by a plethora of VIP guests, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed said the nation’s armed forces were ready to offer the ultimate sacrifice in protecting the UAE.
''The UAE has always been associated with giving, being at the forefront in extending a helping hand to the needy and friends in all circumstances in the implementation of the directives of the rulers of the country, led by President Sheikh Khalifa,” he said.
“Our armed forces have stayed the same course, offering ultimate sacrifices in the service of the nation and religion.”