Israel and UAE Air Forces Fly Side by Side in Greek Air Drill

The conflict between Israel and the many Arab nations has been ongoing since the Jewish state officially came into existence in 1948. But there could be a thaw in relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This is most evident with the air forces of the two countries.

Both countries contributed planes to Iniohos 2017, an annual multi-national exercise put on by the Hellenic Air Force. IAF pilots said this type of exercise gives them the opportunity to conduct flight operations in conditions and geography they are not used to in their native land. They also must learn to work with air forces from other nations– not only the UAE and Greece, but the United States and Italy as well. It also aids the Israeli pilots in learning to speak with pilots and personnel from other nations in a language other than Hebrew.

While Israeli and Arab pilots flying together for a joint exercise may seem unique to many, it is not anything new to these two nations. Israel and the UAE sent aircraft and personnel to the Iniohos exercise in 2016. Both nations also flew together at the U.S. Air Force’s annual Red Flag exercise in Nevada last year, which also included a contingent from Pakistan’s air force.

Israel and the UAE do not have formal diplomatic relations, but many in the Israeli Defense Forces say there has been an improvement in their country’s relations with the Gulf States. This is evidenced by a visit from an Israeli Foreign Ministry official to Bahrain last year, who announced the establishment of the first diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.

Along with aerial combat drills, other aspects of Iniohos 2017 included parachuting troops deep behind enemy lines, aerial refueling, and avoiding surface-to-air missile defenses. Of note is that the Israeli and UAE air forces operate some of the same aircraft and equipment. Pilots in both nations fly U.S. made F-16 jet fighters and C-130 transports.