DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates is set for the time being with its airlift and tanker capabilities, but may look to modernize its assets in the future, a top UAE general said.
Brig. Gen. Staff Pilot Rashed M. Al Shamsi, the UAE commander of Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College, also said pooling mobility assets amongst the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations "might be" a solution to the needs of a coalition that has now topped 40,000 flight hours during Saudi-led operations in Yemen.
"The balance for us is right, for the time being," Shamsi said at the Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference, held here Saturday. "But we are always looking for the future. ... For the time being the assets that we have is good enough. That doesn't mean we are not looking to modernize or increase" that fleet.
The coalition effort in Yemen has been the first major, sustained military operation organized and executed by the GCC, something Shamsi pointed out meant that the local nations are handling the majority of airlift and refueling requirements, as opposed to the past when the US would provide those capabilities.
"We've done this in the past. We would depend on the United States to move our assets or to help us to deploy, and now we can do it ourselves," he said.
The UAE operates a fleet of C-130s, many of which are undergoing upgrades, as well as a recent purchase of C-17s. The UAE also possess three A330 air refueling craft.
The US has provided limited refueling assistance for the Yemen operations, with American tankers staying outside of Yemen's borders. The Pentagon also has approved limited logistical and intelligence support as well as some weapons shipments for the Saudi-led air campaign that is striking at Iran-backed militants.
There is precedent for that model. Poland, Norway and The Netherlands announced in 2014 they would combine resources for refueling assets. That trio of nations is in negotiations to purchase the A330.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.