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Saudi fighter jet pilot killed in Yemen was trained in UK, minister confirms

The Yemen war has seen thousands killed [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 November, 2020

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The UK has played a key role in arming and training the Saudi air force.
A Saudi fighter pilot who died during an operation in Yemen was trained in the UK, a British minister confirmed for the first time this week.

Lieutenant Colonel Muhanna Al-Baiz was flying a UK-manufactured Typhoon strike aircraft when it crashed in southern Yemen in 2017.

UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey confirmed to parliament on Tuesday that Al-Baiz received training from the RAF prior to his death.

"The hon. Member's question is assumed to refer to Lt Col Muhanna Al-Baiz, who completed Typhoon conversion training in the UK, delivered by RAF personnel, in 2011 - 2012," Heappey told parliament, three to four years before the Saudi intervention in Yemen began.

"Lt Col Al-Baiz would have received routine continuation training in Saudi Arabia, some of which will likely have been from BAE Systems pilots, including RAF personnel on secondment to the company."

It is not known if the pilot received any further training from the UK after 2012.

Saudi Arabia intervened in the Yemen war in March 2013, six months after Houthi rebels captured the capital Sanaa and drove the government south.

The UK has trained at least 25 Saudi pilots since 2008, Declassified has revealed.

Heappey confirmed last month that the UK has trained Saudi pilots but did not know how many have gone on to fight in Yemen.

"We do not maintain a record of how many of these [Saudi] pilots continue to fly the Typhoon," he added.

A large number of Saudi fighter and strike aircraft were manufactured in the UK, including the Typhoon and Tornado.

These aircraft have also played a key role in the kingdom's intervention in Yemen.

Human rights groups, such as Save The Children, have accused the Saudi air force of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Yemen during Riyadh's five-year military campaign, including hospitals.

In addition to aircraft, the UK has also supplied other military equipment to the kingdom, such a radars.

"UK Defence personnel have accompanied the deployment of Giraffe radars to Riyadh," Heappey admitted on Tuesday.

The Houthis have fired dozens of missiles and armed drones at civilian and military targets in Saudi Arabia during the war and Heappey said it was in this defensive capacity that the UK military has played a role in recent years.

"This deployment is purely defensive in nature and helps Saudi Arabia with the very real threats it faces," Heappey claimed in the parliamentary debate.

The UK has continued to provide weapons Saudi Arabia throughout the war, despite court orders restricting such sales.

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