The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has deployed combat aircraft to Libya and Eritrea to combat Islamist militants and support its forces in Yemen.
The base in Libya appears to have been established at the beginning of this year. According to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery shows the construction of buildings in March this year at Al-Khadim Airport in Marj province around 100 km from Benghazi. By the end of June, hangars and a new ramp had been built. The New Arab reports that equipment for the new base began arriving in February.
Numerous aircraft were seen in the satellite imagery at Al-Khadim, including several Air Tractors, a couple of UH-60 Black Hawks, two Il-76s, an Il-18 and two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The United Arab Emirates has been supporting the Libyan National Army in Benghazi and in September the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries fighting the Libyan National Army said it was being attacked by UAE Air Tractor AT-802s and UAVs as well as Libyan MiG-23s and Mi-8s.
Satellite imagery showed six Air Tractors at Al-Khadim on 23 July, according to IHS Jane’s, and AT-802s have been photographed flying over Benghazi.
The UAE is also believed to have conducted air strikes over Libya from neighbouring Egypt and in April 2015 donated armoured personnel carriers (apparently Panthera T-6s, Streit Group Typhoons and Toyota Land Cruisers) to Libya. The UAE, Russia and Egypt support the Tobruk-based government in Libya and General Khalifa Haftar.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the UAE has deployed Mirage 2000-9 fighters to Eritrea in support of operations in Yemen. Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery seen by IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly showed nine Mirage 2000s at Assab airport on 20 October in addition to two UH-60s, two Bell 407s, one C-130 Hercules and two Bombardier Dash 8 airliners.
The UAE is taking part in the Saudi-led coalition to try to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Iran-allied Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh ousted him from power. The coalition entered Yemen’s civil war in March last year.
A UAE Mirage 2000 crashed in Aden, Yemen, in March this year, killing both pilots, after conducting bombing raids against Islamist militants.