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UAE deploys fast jets to Eritrea

14 November 2016
The UAE has deployed Mirage 2000-9 jets to Assab in Eritrea. Source: IHS/Patrick Allen

The United Arab Emirates has deployed a combat air group to Eritrea's Assab airport to support its military operation in southern Yemen, Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery shows.

There were nine Dassault Mirage 2000 multirole jet fighters at the airport on 20 October, as well as two Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, two Bell 407 helicopters, one Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, and two Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop airliners. This combination of aircraft is only in service with the UAE air force, which has about 40 Mirage 2000-9EAD jets and operates the Northstar Aviation 407MHR armed version of the Bell helicopter.

The construction of 12 hangars at the airbase indicates that the UAE has deployed or intends to deploy more than nine Mirage 2000-9 jets.

The hangars and fighters were not present at the base on 8 May.

Satellite imagery also shows UAE Navy vessels have been using Assab's commercial port since at least September 2015. The 20 October image shows one of the UAE Navy's six Baynunah-class corvettes docked on that day as well as two 64 m landing ships.

The high-speed catamaran Swift was also present, proving it was not sunk as claimed by Yemen's rebels when it was hit by an anti-ship missile near the Bab al-Mandab strait on 1 October. Previously operated as a high-speed logistics ship by the US Navy, the UAE says Swift is a civilian vessel that was carrying out a humanitarian mission when it was attacked.

Vessels from the UAE National Marine Dredging Company are also building a new port facility next to the airport that is likely to be used as a dedicated naval base once completed. The 20 October image shows the dock's retaining wall under construction.

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