‘Thunder’ in desert as drill ends

‘Thunder’ in desert as drill ends
1 / 5
‘Thunder’ in desert as drill ends
2 / 5
‘Thunder’ in desert as drill ends
3 / 5
‘Thunder’ in desert as drill ends
4 / 5
‘Thunder’ in desert as drill ends
5 / 5
Updated 12 March 2016

‘Thunder’ in desert as drill ends

‘Thunder’ in desert as drill ends

HAFR AL-BATIN: Warplanes roared overhead, tanks rumbled across the desert and smoke filled the sky Thursday for the final day of the region's biggest-ever military exercises.

The "North Thunder" maneuvers included 20 nations from the Middle East, Africa and Asia who declared their air, land and sea troops combat-ready to ward off aggressors.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman was joined by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Chief of General staff Gen. Abdul Rahman bin Saleh Al-Bunyan, according to SPA.
Al-Bunyan said the nations involved wanted to ensure stability and security in their homelands and among their neighbors, which was the reason for carrying out the exercises over the past 15 days.
He said this was one of the region’s biggest military exercises in terms of the number of troops participating. It was aimed at uniting Muslim and Arab nations and ensuring combat-readiness to ward off threats.
Among the foreign leaders present were Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Sudan's Omar Bashir, Yemen's Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
As the dignitaries watched from a pavilion, Apache gunships fired rockets with a bone-shaking blast. Smoke rose from targets on the ground and commandos rappelled from helicopters.
Fighter jets streaked through the sky releasing orange flares, artillery shells whistled through the air and heavy machinegun fire boomed from across the drill site, which stretched for dozens of kilometers.
A two-hour mock battle featuring fighter jets, attack helicopters and tanks was among the final events of the exercises.
The maneuvers involved 2,500 warplanes, 20,000 tanks and 350,000 troops, making it the second-largest gathering of forces in the history of the region since Desert Storm.
Officials have said the new coalition would gather in the Kingdom this month for its first publicly announced meeting.

An AFP reporter saw Pakistani, Egyptian, Kuwaiti and Sudanese troops alongside Saudis in the drill.
Northern Thunder's official Twitter account said the exercises aimed to "confront all the threat scenarios in the region".
King Salman was joined by leaders from the countries participating in the exercises — UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, Senegal, Sudan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Chad, Tunisia, Comoros, Djibouti, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, Egypt, Mauritania and Mauritius.
The guests included Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Senagalese President Macky Sall.
Also present were Chad’s President Idriss Deby Anto, Mauritania President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Comoros President Ikililou Dhoinine.
In addition, there were Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Moroccan Prime Minister Abdulilah Benkirane, and Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.
Others who participated included Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Housing and Land and Minister of Islamic Affairs and Haj of Mauritius Shaukat Sudhn, Prince Faisal bin Al-Hussein, Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Hareb Al-Busaidi, minister responsible for defense affairs of Oman; and Commander of the Armed Forces of Malaysia Zu Al-Kifli Mohammed Zain.
The other guests included Minister of Defense and National Security of Maldives Adam Sharif, Commander of the Armed Forces of Brunei Maj. Gen. Baheen Muhammad Tawih, Turkish Minister of National Defense Ismet Yilmaz, and Minister and Personal Representative of the President of Tunisia Al-Azhar Al-Karoui Chebbi.
They had earlier been welcomed by Eastern Province Gov. Prince Saud bin Naif, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif.