US Trained UAE Pilots for Combat in Yemen: Documents

The American military has trained UAE fighter pilots for combat missions in Yemen, indicating Washington’s deeper involvement into the ongoing crisis in Yemen, a recent report citing US Air Force documents says, according to RT.

The papers were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Yahoo News. They appear to show how United Arab Emirates (UAE) pilots and crew were prepared for the Yemen conflict by US instructors under the UAE’s “F-16 pilot training program, RT reported.

It was completed at the USAF’s Warfare Center in Al Dhafra, just south of the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

The training which, according to the documents, took place between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017, resulted in four new instructors and 29 combat wingmen prior to their immediate deployment “for combat operations in Yemen.”
Also revealed was the escorting of four UAE F-16s to the USAF’s Red Flag exercises in the Nevada desert. The two-week advanced aerial combat training oversaw 150 Emirati personnel participate in “challenging exercises” with the goal to “prepare” them for combat action in Yemen.

The UAE has been involved in the war on Yemen as part of a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi Ansarullah movement to reinstate former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

While Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in the country has garnered the most international criticism, the UAE’s role has received less coverage. However, it has been an active partner in the coalition, contributing both troops on the ground in addition to planes in the sky.

When pressed for comment on the UAE training by Yahoo News, both a US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson and a second CENTCOM official, Lt. Col. Josh Jacques, repeatedly denied prepping pilots for Yemen sorties.

“We do not conduct exercises with members of the [Saudi-led coalition] to prepare for combat operations in Yemen,” Jacques said.

US officials have long been coy regarding the true extent of their support for the coalition, insisting that arm sales, air-to-air refueling, as well as intelligence training and sharing constitute the extent of their involvement.

However, in November, the US government said it would end mid-air refueling of coalition aircraft in response to growing outrage that the Saudi-led bombing campaign was unlawfully targeting civilians and putting the country on the brink of famine.

In December, top US military brass talked Washington’s "lack of involvement". Speaking at a Washington Post event, General Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, claimed that the US was not participating in what he called "civil war", “nor are we supporting one side or the other.”

H.M

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