Continuing my look at the participants of the 10th Al Ain Aerobatic Show, we move on this time to the United Arab Emirates Air Force and Air Defence (UAEAF & AD) Mirage 2000-9EAD solo display flown by Captain Masoud Al Falahi, who is based at Al Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi.
The United Arab Emirates Air Force has a relationship with the Dassault Mirage stretching right back to the country’s formation, when orders were placed for a total of 32 Mirage 5s of various denominations.
A 1998 order for 30 Mirage 2000-9s followed with a view to replacing the earlier mark of aircraft, and, in 2007, a $3.4 billion deal was struck for the purchase of 30 new-build airframes from Dassault plus upgrades to the existing fleet. It’s not immediately clear when or where additional airframes were acquired, but the UAEAF is said to currently operate a 68-strong Mirage 2000-9 fleet.
Three squadrons of the type fall under the control of Fighter Wing, headquartered in Abu Dhabi. Two of the three squadrons are based at Al Dhafra AB, while the third is resident at Al Safran AB.
Disappointingly, as with Al Fursan, Capt. Al Falahi only performed on the Saturday this time around. The routine is almost exactly as I remember it from the previous Al Ain Aerobatic Show back in February 2011, although it has been tightened up considerably, and it also now features the use of smokewinders, which really do add to the spectacle.
Although it was nice to see the Lockheed Martin F-16E Desert Falcon put through its paces too, it was the Mirage 2000 routine that was more impactful, in my humble opinion, with the action seemingly taking place closer to the crowd.
While the aircraft had taxied out and departed from the military base at the southern end of the site, well away from the eyes of the crowd, after landing, Capt. Al Falahi did bring his steed down the taxiway in front of the grandstand where he shut down and vacated the aircraft to a hero’s welcome.
Fortunately, this was not the last time we would see the Mirage performing during the show. As the sun set on the Saturday programme, Capt. Al Falahi and his wingman – in the spare aircraft – got airborne together and performed a stunning sunset tail-chase, with the reheat plugged in for almost all of the five or six passes that we were treated to. It really was one of the genuine stand out moments of what was an excellent show.
Next time I’ll look at Captain Al Falahi’s Royal Air Force fast-jet displaying counterpart, Flt Lt Jamie “Noz” Norris, Typhoon Display Pilot.