In recent years, the air forces of the Gulf nations have undergone a dramatic transformation, growing in both size and stature. In the past few months, the Royal Bahraini Air Force, the Royal Jordanian Air Force, the Qatar Emiri Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Force and the UAE Air Force and Air Defence have all participated in multinational combat operations alongside the USA, UK and French air forces, among other coalition partners. In doing so, they have demonstrated their professionalism and combat efficiency, and they are today widely regarded as being mature and competent air arms capable of undertaking a broad spectrum of air power roles.
Driven by post-Cold War budgetary pressures, the USA has increasingly disengaged from the Middle East.
Though the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet maintains an aircraft carrier in the area, and though the USAF deploys forces at a number of regional airfields, most notably at Al Udeid in Qatar, which hosts Central Command’s headquarters, the USA has replaced many permanently deployed force elements with shorter-term deployments. As it has done so it has demanded greater ‘burden-sharing’ from its allies, and the Gulf nations have responded by taking on a greater share of their own defence, and by reconfiguring to meet today’s real world threats. […]