x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Time Frame: Iran and RAF Sharjah join forces

Taken in November 1970, this photo shows two Hawker Hunters taking off from RAF Sharjah to make a simulated ground strike on southern Iran during a Centro training mission.

Courtesy of Ken Parry
Courtesy of Ken Parry

The drama of this image is not just of two high performance fighter aircraft taking off in the desert, but also of the major political changes that were on the way.

Taken in November 1970, it shows two Hawker Hunters from No 8 Squadron departing RAF Sharjah in a manoeuvre known as "hi-lo" in which four aircraft take off almost simultaneously, the leading pair gaining altitude rapidly, with the two at the rear hugging the ground while building up speed.

The aircraft were taking part in Exercise Midlink, a training operation organised by the Central Treaty Organisation (Cento), a military pact modelled on Nato and created in 1955 by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

After heading out into the Gulf, the RAF Hunters were to make a simulated ground strike on southern Iran, where they would be met by defending Northrop F-5 fighters of the Imperial Iranian Airforce.

Any attempt to penetrate Iranian air space by outside aircraft these days would carry a serious risk of starting a conflict that could engulf the region and beyond. By the end of the 1970s, the shah of Iran had fled into exile, and the IIAF renamed the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. Cento was dissolved the same year. For RAF Sharjah, the end came even sooner, with the creation of the UAE in December 1971 coinciding with the withdrawal of British forces from the country.

The photograph was taken by Ken Parry, a flight commander at RAF Sharjah and comes courtesy of radfanhunters.co.uk

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae