The United Arab Emirates' new aerobatic display team is on track to achieve operational status next year, following the completion of training activities being conducted in Italy.
Eight fighter pilots from the UAE air force have been following a dedicated training course since July 2010 under the supervision of instructor pilots from the Italian air force's Frecce Tricolori team, based at Udine-Rivolto air base.
The pilots are receiving instruction on Italian air force Alenia Aermacchi MB-339A advanced jet trainers: the same type that will be used by its "Al Fursan" (The Knights) team.
"We are thankful and fortunate that the Italian air force has undertaken this task to train our national aerobatic team," says Brig Gen Khaled Omar saleh Bahussain, director of training for the UAE air force & air defence, and Al Fursan team director.
"The highly skilled training being imparted to our pilots is invaluable and they are gaining the maximum benefit from their experience."
The new team will fly displays with seven aircraft, including one to be shown as a solo highlight.
"We expect to complete the advanced flying aerobatic course with the Frecce Tricolori in January 2011, after which we will refine our preparation in the UAE," Bahussain says.
Alenia Aermacchi has recently completed work in the UAE to upgrade the air force's six legacy MB-339As for the aerobatic display role. Another four ex-Italian air force examples are being completed at the Finmeccanica company's facilities in Italy, and will carry the team's distinctive black and gold livery.
"We expect to receive the four remaining MB-339As between November and December this year," says Bahussain.
Members of the Al Fursan team have already made their first public appearances, including a flypast using several aircraft carried out for graduating pilots at the UAE's Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College last January. The team also appeared at the Al Ain air show.