On Target: A US Marine takes part in a pistol competition at Jordan's King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center. Jordan is among the Middle East countries that invests heavily in modern training facilities. (Sgt. Alex Sauceda /US Marine Corps)
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AMMAN, JORDAN — Military training and simulation programs in several Middle East countries — in particular, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan — have been rapidly growing to cope with the modernization of their armed forces.
Like vendors in other sectors, training and simulation providers are looking to the Middle East for current and future growth, according to analysis by Avascent, a strategic and management consultancy based in Washington.
The US dominates the global training and simulation market, both as a customer and as a provider of related goods and services. But demand for training and simulation products is growing elsewhere, particularly in the UK, France and the Middle East.
For all the progress in the Arabian Gulf, training gaps remain for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, according to Anthony Cordesman, a former National Security adviser who works for the Washington Institute.
“Many states do relatively little large-scale training that simulates real combat, and [GCC] member states still have limited cross and common training. There also is a need for joint training that cuts across service lines,” Cordesman wrote in his latest Gulf Military Balance report. “There are limits to the GCC options in cooperating with forces outside the Gulf. Only one additional regional power seems to be a viable immediate candidate. Including Jordan in the GCC would add an important military force, although one from a country where stability may be an issue.”
Saudi Arabia’s modernization drive has made it a prime customer for military simulation. In particular, the Saudi National Guard has been rapidly modernizing from a militia to a sophisticated, well-equipped modern force chartered to secure critical infrastructure, combat domestic terrorism and protect the royal family.
In 2010, the King’s eldest son, Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, was appointed commander, a report released last year by Avascent said. As well, the Saudi king ordered some $3 billion spent to upgrade the National Guard’s equipment and capabilities — including its training gear.
Meanwhile, the UAE has been developing its nascent training industry. In 2011, UAE officials announced plans to create a major military training facility covering 400,000 square meters of land south of Abu Dhabi.
“Our concept plan is to have a world-class facility to serve the UAE, GCC, Middle East, North Africa and the world,” said Mubarak Al Zaabi, an official with the Jaheziya Safety, Security and Disaster Management City.
Slated to open in 2017, the Jaheziya complex will provide a training ground for multi-agency operations for personnel from the armed forces, civil defense agencies, health authorities, humanitarian and non-governmental organizations. Twelve training areas will include zones for practicing operations in maritime, urban, industrial, nuclear and hazardous-materials areas. Training scenarios will include emergency response, crisis and disaster management, and even sabotage at a mock nuclear plant. UAE’s first nuclear plant is also slated to open in 2017 in Abu Dhabi.
“We received many enquiries from the Thai government, the Indian and Pakistani air forces due to the fact that the training provided at Jaheziya is usually available in Europe or the United States,” Al Zaabi said “These countries see it more feasible due to the proximity and class of programs.”
In Jordan, the International Counter Terrorism Training Center of Excellence, managed by former military personnel with experience in business and a qualified support staff, runs the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC). It can provide predeployment training, joint and combined military exercises. The facility provides a simulation ground for real-world conditions including live-fire and maneuvering. Performance is observed, measured and evaluated using various feedback systems, including cameras and microphones placed around the facility, a company spokesperson said.
KASOTC includes 56 urban and village facilities which simulate realistic neighborhoods, an embassy, residential areas, commercial, industrial facilities, government buildings, a public square, villas, apartment complexes, a community center, garage, gas station, shops and water reservoirs. It even has a full-scale A300 aircraft model and control tower with a helicopter landing pad.
KASOTC officials say the facility is used by forces from the US, UK, the gulf and North Africa. ■