UAE Makes Socotra Island the Jewel in the Crown of Its Naval Empire

The United Arab Emirates is in the middle of a huge project to transform Socotra, an island and archipelago in the Arabian Sea, into its main air, sea and special forces base, and the location of the central command center for six naval bases in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
In 2014, the Emirates won a 99-year lease of the island from Yemen’s president Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, when he was on the point of fleeing his country.
Very isolated, Socotra, which is 132km long and 50km in width, lies strategically just 240km east of the Horn of Africa and 380km south of the Arabian Peninsula. The Russians used it as the berth for their submarines up until they quit the Middle East in 1977.
In recent years, the UAE has deployed some 12,000 members of its Special Operations Command (SOC) at Socotra. A unit of the Presidential Guard, it is also an effective force for fighting terrorists, using combat experience gained since 2007 in wars alongside US forces in Afghanistan and Libya, and of late in Yemen at the side of the Saudi army.
On April 21, DEBKA Weekly 752 (New Saudi-UAE Bases Defend Strategic Water against Iranian Navy) revealed the joint Riyadh-Abu Dhabi plan to string a chain of naval bases in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden for the triple missions of safeguarding their oil routes, curtailing Iranian expansion and securing their own coasts.
Half a dozens bases are already operating or under construction – some also serving air force units – at Port Sudan, Assab in Eritrea, Mukalla in Yemen (which covers UAE troops posted to Hadhramauth), as well as Djibouti, Berbera and Bosasa.
However, Socotra is to be the hub of this web. This was decided by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who serves as Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces.
Under construction there are anchorages for war ships, a gigantic air base, a communications and command center, facilities for air defense and shore-to-sea missile batteries to defend the island, and a large barracks for the emirate’s special forces.
When it is finished, by around 2019, UAE will be able to boast the most modern and sophisticated military base of any Persian Gulf nation.

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