Islamabad: A Saudi Royal Air Force (RSAF) contingent arrived in Pakistan on Saturday to participate in the two-week-long multinational air exercise called ‘Aces Meet 2021-1’.
The Saudi Air Force team arrived at Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Mushaf airbase with a number of RSAF’s Tornado combat aircraft and air, technical and support crew.
The United States Air Force (USAF) will also participate with their aircraft in the exercise along with PAF and RSAF while Jordan, Egypt and Bahrain air forces will attend as observers. Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 and JF-17 fighter jets and Saudi Air Force’s Tornado aircraft will take part in the exercise.
PAF’s Aces exercise
Aces Meet 2021-1 exercise aims to maximize the combat readiness of participating units by providing them realistic, multi-domain training and to build partnerships and interoperability among allies. “The exercise is aimed at sharing experiences and enhancing interoperability among participating air forces” with focus on role-oriented and near-realistic combat training, PAF statement said.
Pakistan hosted the first Aces exercise in 2017 in which PAF, RSAF and Turkish Air Force participated with aircraft. It focused on exploring and developing air power to contribute effectively to the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism campaigns.
PAF established the Airpower Centre of Excellence (ACE) in 2016 to transform air force capabilities to meet future challenges and to strengthen relations with friendly air forces through experience sharing and joint training. Pakistan has the seventh largest air force in the world with an active fleet of 1364 aircraft, according to 2021 world air forces report.
PAF ties with Saudi Air Force
PAF enjoys close cooperation with many countries in the Middle East and frequently participated in bilateral exercises and joint training.
Pakistan has a longstanding close relationship with Saudi Arabia dating back to the 1940s and strategic military ties formalized after a 1967 defense accord. Over the decades, Saudi Arabia stood by Pakistan during its difficult times, ensuring economic assistance and oil supply. In response, Pakistan provided military expertise and support to the kingdom for decades and also helped develop the Royal Saudi Air Force and trained its first fighter jet pilots in the 1960s.
Pakistan helps Saudi Arabia with military training, defense production and joint military exercises under a bilateral security cooperation agreement. Pakistan’s former military chief, General Raheel Sharif, is the current head of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition – an alliance of 41 states.