UAE air defenders graduate THAAD course, make BMD history
By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Meadows, 32nd AAMDC Public Affairs:
The United Arab Emirates have made air defense history as the first nation outside of the United States to gain the enhanced capabilities of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense to protect its nation from ballistic missile threats. Dec. 9, 2015, 81 Emirati air defenders graduated from the first foreign THAAD Operator/Maintainer course.
Brig. Gen. Donald C. Fryc, commander, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, and host for the graduation, addressed the assembled audience and graduates. He spoke of the close relationship between the U.S. and the UAE as well as his own personal relationships with their professional military.
The UAE marked its 44th anniversary as a country Dec. 2, 2015, which is their national day. As an example of just how far its air defense has come in so short a period, the UAE gained the Patriot missile system in 2012 and conducted a combined joint live-fire exercise in 2014.
And now, the UAE is increasing its capabilities as “the first GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) partner to possess an upper tier ballistic missile defense capability, and the first non-U.S. unit in the world to possess the premiere medium-range ballistic missile killer on the planet – the THAAD weapon system,” Fryc said.
THAAD is a BMD system designed to intercept and destroy short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles – inside or outside the atmosphere – during the final, or terminal, phase of flight. Experts consider THAAD highly effective against asymmetric ballistic missile threats. The system, which includes launcher, radar and fire control elements, uses hit-to-kill technology that employs kinetic energy to destroy incoming missile threats at an altitude high enough to mitigate the effects of such enemy offensive weapons before they can impact targets on the ground.
Although the graduates have accomplished a great achievement, many challenges lay ahead for them. However, they will not have to face them alone.
“While this is the finish line for your training here, it is the start point for what you must now go home and fight to gain and maintain the highest levels of readiness; for surely, the fight is coming,” Fryc told the graduates. “So, we challenge you with that. We acknowledge your accomplishment. We look forward to when you take up the watch, you stand the post, and you man the guns.
“Carry on that fight toward the highest level of readiness and know this one thing: ‘Blackjack’ has got your back,” Fryc said. “We are with you in the AOR (area of responsibility) right now, and we will remain there; and, we will be able to fight and win.”
Lt. Col. Khaled Al Suwaidi, class leader and THAAD battalion commander, is an Emirati air force and ADA service member with more than 22 years of military experience. Al Suwaidi first came to El Paso many years ago and is a graduate of Hawk missile training. He said the medium and long-range capability of the THAAD system is something his nation did not possess.
“It is most important for us to have that medium (to long range air defense) system, or THAAD system, to protect our country against adversaries that also have medium range ballistic missiles,” Al Suwaidi said. “That is when it is most important to protect our country.”
Al Suwaidi enjoyed the THAAD training, and he stressed the UAE air defenders have the proper focus and purpose that proved vital to their training success.
“We feel we have the best motivation for the training to protect our country,” said Al Suwaidi. “It is a good system for us, and we are proud to be (working) with the THAAD system in our country to protect against that medium (range) threat missile.”
Al Suwaidi said all of the training was “excellent,” as were the American teams that guided the class through the course including Lockheed Martin, the Raytheon Group, the Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Technical Assistance Fielding Team.
Capt. Joseph McCarthy, TAFT deputy for UAE THAAD, assigned to the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization here, explained the roles of the organizations that Al Suwaidi had expressed appreciation for being a pivotal part in the Emirati ADA THAAD training.
McCarthy, having worked with THAAD systems for nearly two years, said the Emirati air defenders performed well. He has complete confidence in their abilities. “Not only did they learn from us, but I know we also learned a lot from them,” McCarthy said.
Distinguished visitors included retired Lt. Gen. Mike Oates, retired Lt. Gen. Dennis Cavin, Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty, 1st AD and Fort Bliss commanding general, Brig. Gen. Khalaf al Qubaisi, commander, UAE air force operations, and Col. David B. Byers, program manager, the Missile Defense Agency, THAAD Program.
The distinguished honor graduate was Maj. Ahmmed Al Teneiji. Other individuals who received special recognition for achieving the highest averages in their respective courses were Capt. Ahmed Al Hammadi (radar), 2nd Lt. Ghanem Al Hussani (TFCC), and Sgt. Hamad Jahdami (launcher).
Each air defender spent a year in San Antonio for language training and eight months here for the comprehensive ADA training. Although these Emirati air defenders dedicated time away from family and friends, Al Suwaidi said they were ready to return home, continue their training and show their leaders and citizens their “ability and capability to protect” their country.
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