x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

UK forces in talks over placing troops and airbases in the UAE

Idex 2013: British and Emirati pilots would benefit from each other's experiences of desert-area flying, says UK air force's commanding officer

Delegations capturing the movements during the inaugural Idex ceremony. Ravindranath K / The National
Delegations capturing the movements during the inaugural Idex ceremony. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Britain and the UAE are holding talks regarding the placement of forces in the country, the deputy British defence minister revealed yesterday.

Philip Dunne said this comes in line with the realignment of the British military.

"We are moving our armed forces on to a contingent operations platform and that is all part of Future Force 2020," Mr Dunne said. "The armed forces are being placed in to a new configuration which will have a higher state of readiness to deploy in a flexible and adaptable way."

"We also are holding understandings and agreements with friendly nations to have the capacity to respond in the case an emergency arises. Access to military airfields which will depend on each nation."

Mr Dunne said that the British government is in discussions with the UAE Government to determine the size and type of presence in the UAE.

"I'm not going in to the details of what we are talking about here as we are still in the midst of having discussions and I do not want to give any false impressions yet," he said.

The Royal Air Force's air chief marshal, Sir Stephen Dalton, expressed his desire for a semi-permanent airbase in the UAE.

"This will not only increase our inter-operability but will also present us with a chance to conduct more than three or four exercises a year," Sir Stephen said.

"If in 10 years after operating in the northern sea or European theatres, for example, we need to come to the region I would not want to retrain my pilots in desert warfare," he said.

"Such an agreement would benefit us from the experience of the Emirati pilots and would benefit the Emiratis from our experiences as well," he added.

Mr Dunne confirmed the UK is not going to commit any ground forces at this time any where in the world, due to the realignment of the armed forces.

"We are maintaining our capability in the UK," he said.

According to Mr Dunne, the UK has 300 resident non- operational military personnel in the Arabian Gulf apart from another 1,500 combat-ready personnel.

"There are various force capabilities on the ground around the Middle East which are enabling local forces," he said.

The UK is currently withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan, a task it hopes to complete by 2014.

"Over the next two years our whole military posture will adjust as we redeploy from Afghanistan and move towards Future Force 2020 - the blueprint for our future armed forces, where flexibility and adaptability will become our guiding principle," he said in a speech earlier this week. "Our capacity to undertake activity in this region will increase," he added.

As part of the withdrawal, he said, the British military uses Dubai's Al Minhad airbase where heavy equipment is airlifted from Camp Bastion and then transported to the UK via sea from different Dubai ports.

"It is an important demonstration of how the two nations work together," he said.

Mr Dunne said that the kind of capability the British military will be seeking will be through rapid-reaction units.

"Naval-wise, we would use our amphibious units and army wise we would use our rapid reaction teams called the joint expeditionary force," he said,

"In the event they are called upon and the political decisions are made to deploy we would be able to do so more rapidly than we traditionally do".

Mr Dunne maintained that Arabian Gulf nations are better positioned to defend themselves.

"With more training, excersises and interoperability, between each other Gulf nations are equipped to defend their territories," he added.

amustafa@thenational.ae