Complex Aerial Combat
With the return of the German follow-on forces to their home base, the German Air Force is concluding its participation in this year’s Advanced Tactical Leadership Course 12 (ATLC 12) in the United Arab Emirates. Around 240 soldiers and civilian employees of the German Air Force participated in the course at the Air Warfare Center located at Al Dhafra Air Base, near Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The German Air Force participation at Al Dhafra (March 9 to April 9) included six Tornados IDS of the 31 "Boelcke" Fighter Bomber Wing and six F-4F Phantoms of the 71 "Richthofen" Fighter Wing. Saudi Arabia participated also with six Tornados IDS, the Emirates with six Mirage 2000, six Fighting Falcon F-16s, helicopters and Special Forces. France sent another six Mirage 2000, the USA six Fighting Falcon F-16s along with an AWAC early warning aircraft. According to the air force, the course was aimed at "planning and implementing complex, multinational and combined aerial combat operations," (...) "in the most realistic tactical situations possible".
61,200 Square Kilometers
For the ambitious maneuver nothing less than the largest training airspace in the world was placed at the disposal of this impressive array of fighter aircraft. With a length of 340 km and a width of 180 km it covers altogether 61,200 km². Not only is this twice the size of the US Air Force base in Nevada (Nellis Air Force Base), where NATO pilots regularly train, but with this training area, the UAE is almost unconditionally placing nearly three-fourths of its territory at the service of these maneuvers. The German Air Force reports that they had to "make detours" (...) "only around a couple of oil fields." Besides, "spread all across the Emirates" are numerous monitoring stations "monitoring in real-time the location of the warplanes and the maneuver they are engaged in." Abu Dhabi is placing this infrastructure at their disposal free of charge. The German Air Force had already participated a year ago in training maneuvers in Al Dhafra. Berlin has even stationed a lieutenant-colonel of the Bundeswehr to serve as liaison officer.
The German Air Force's training cooperation is but one aspect of the much broader Bundeswehr cooperation with the UAE military forces, which provides a pillar of the "strategic partnership" agreed upon between Berlin and Abu Dhabi five years ago. Since the UAE's Aabar state fund became a Daimler shareholder, a few days ago, with 9.1 percent of the shares, the business aspect of the "partnership" has been receiving more public attention than the military aspect. Aabar, which is owned by one of the most powerful families of Abu Dhabi, announced its intention to increase its shares in Daimler to more than 20 percent. In May Economy Minister Guttenberg will visit UAE to incite new investments from the rich Sheiks in Germany. Berlin is strongly hoping to attain UAE investments in support of Opel, which up to now Abu Dhabi has refused.
To a certain extent, the UAE is currently taking on a role in relationship to Germany that Iran had been playing during the reign of the Shah. The Shah cooperated closely with Bonn and, among other things, bought numerous shares in Krupp and Daimler - millions in oil revenues to support the West German economy, just as the Emirates' investments are doing today. But in fact, US - and since some time also German - transatlantic circles are encouraging the enhancement of cooperation with the Emirates and other countries of the Arabian Peninsula to set them up to counter an ambitious Teheran that, unlike under the reign of the Shah, is insubordinate to the West. This is possible because there has always been animosity between the Arab states bordering on the Persian Gulf and Iran. In Berlin, many are supposing that this is due to the fact that it is easier to insure loyalty of the ruling feudal clans of sheikdoms and monarchies in the Persian Gulf, than win the allegiance of an insubordinate Teheran. Past experience seems to confirm this.
The air force maneuver in Al Dhafra was also aimed toward the objective of positioning the Arabian Peninsula states against Iran. According to press reports, in the autumn of 2007, as it seemed possible that the US would carry out airstrikes against Iran, the US and the UAE were engaged in joint aerial military maneuvers. "Iran's attempt to impose itself as a regional superpower" was the worry at the time. It is unlikely that Abu Dhabi could be induced to attack Iran. But with a well-trained air force, the Emirate would be able to parry possible retaliation by Iranian armed forces, in the case of combat between the USA and Iran. Even Berlin has been participating in this sort of maneuver, since last year.