China and UAE Plan First-Ever Joint Military Drill

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Reports indicate that the Chinese armed forces will hold the first-ever military drills with the United Arab Emirates in China this month.

A statement from the Chinese Ministry of Defense states that the Falcon Shield 2023, which will feature joint air force training for the two countries, will be held in Xinjiang in northwest China. They further stated that the training aims to deepen exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries and enhance mutual understanding and trust.

UAE’s defense rapprochement with China can be clearly seen in the defense shows in the Gulf nation, where Chinese firms have not only participated with their defense platforms, but also with the research and development of defense systems co-developed by the two countries through a joint project between UAE’s International Golden Group and Norinco called China-Emirates Science and Technology innovation laboratory (CEST).

According to Breaking Defense, the Gulf state signed an agreement at UMEX 2022 UAE’s Unmanned System Exhibition and conference to procure 12 L-15 trainer jets from China’s National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation, with the possibility of increasing the quantity to 36.

When it comes to the type of equipment that will participate in the drill, David Des Roches, associate professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies predicts no Western equipment is likely to appear since Western capitals have restrictions on how their equipment is used even after it is sold.

He predicts that Chinese-produced aircraft procured by the UAE will be used in the exercise, like the Wing Loong drone, which has been in service since 2011 and carries Chinese-provided air-to-surface missiles and bombs.

Global Times, which is owned by China, suggests the newly purchased L-15s would also be involved, saying that as “military ties between China and the UAE continue to develop, there could be more joint exercises and arms deals.”

An analyst from the paper stated, as provided by Breaking Defense- “China is not planning to fill the so-called power vacuum left by the US in the Middle East, but is enhancing cooperation with countries in the region, respecting their independent development, and helping safeguard regional peace and stability.”