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Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 22 - 11 - 2018

The first edition of the Arab Shield military manoeuvres rounded up activities late last week. The joint exercises brought together forces from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait and were attended by Lebanon and Morocco as observers. The final stage, in which all participant forces took part, featured live ammunition targeting and a simulated attack by special marine forces on a strategic island held by terrorists.
Lieutenant General Mohamed Farid, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces; General Hamad Thani Al-Rumaithi, Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces; and General Fahad Abdullah Al-Mutair, commander of Saudi Ground Forces were among those watching the main stage of Arab Shield 1 at the Mohamed Naguib military base.
In a speech underscoring the importance of the joint Arab drills, the commander of the Northern Military Region stressed how they contributed to the transfer and exchange of expertise between participant forces and the unifying of concepts involved in addressing the challenges confronting the region.
Egypt's Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Mohamed Farid praised the excellent coordination and collaboration between the participant Arab forces. He said the drills strengthened cooperative military relations and reaffirmed the participants' commitment to confronting the threats and challenges facing the Arab nation.
Farid said Arab Shield 1 aimed to unify Arab military concepts, the main purpose of the training being to enhance the ability to preserve peace in the Arab region in the face of regional and international threats, including terrorism. He also lauded the outstanding strength and efficacy of the Egyptian participants and the outstanding professionalism with which they carried out the training drills.
Farid took the opportunity afforded by his speech to hail the progress made by Comprehensive Operation Sinai (COS) 2018 in Central and North Sinai. Egypt, he said, will remain safe and secure as long as it has a strong army with the combat capacities and skills to safeguard security, peace and stability.
COS 2018 was continuing successfully and the operation would end only when the whole of the Sinai is free of terrorism.
Farid also noted in his speech that the Arab Shield 1 drills were an extension of the Gulf Shield 1 drills in which Egyptian forces took part.
Arab Shield 1 offered five basic practical training programmes. The first, a tactical targeting project using live ammunition, engaged all branches of the Armed Forces and was attended by military officials from the participant countries. Multipurpose fighter jets performed reconnaissance and aerial bombardment missions against terrorist holdout centres and mobile terrorist convoys, while antitank helicopters shelled and destroyed hostile targets.
Artillery forces responded to fire from terrorist clusters, and mechanised and armoured artillery units, backed by antitank missile units and air cover, were deployed to engage with aerial targets. In the course of the drills, participant forces demonstrated a high degree of precision and manoeuvrability and the ability to collaborate fully in order to realise the designated training aims.
The second programme was designed for naval forces and included simulations involving unconventional threats to which naval units might be exposed at sea. Participants carried out artillery fire against surface targets, helicopter take-offs and landings on ships, and defence manoeuvres to intercept a hostile aerial assault in cooperation with Air Force units. Participant naval forces also received training in visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) manoeuvres, medical support and the evacuation of the wounded at sea.
Thirdly came a programme devised for participant air forces which entailed joint sorties and various offensive and defensive aerial combat manoeuvres as well as training in providing aerial backup to ground forces.
The fourth training programme, in detecting and defusing explosive devices, was designed for the military engineering corps of participant countries. The theoretical part of the exercise aimed to familiarise participants with the nature and types of explosives, the latest detection equipment and the methods used in searching for explosives planted in buildings and on streets.
A final session was held on laser operated target designation and steering technology which makes it possible to pinpoint and destroy terrorist targets in inhabited areas with pinpoint accuracy. This component of the joint Arab drills was a manifestation of one of the most important tenets of the creed of the Egyptian Armed Forces in its fight against terrorism — to safeguard the lives of civilian populations.


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