Iraq: October 4, 2001


"Swift Sword II / Saif Sareea II"

On 2 October 2001, 38,000 Omani and British troops in Oman began moving north from the southern Salalah region to the northern Muscat region (260 miles south of the capital, Muscat). They were part of the "Swift Sword II" ("Saif Sareea II") exercise, slated to run from 18 to 26 October. Billed as the biggest deployment of British troops on exercise since the mid-1980s, this exercise builds on the experiences of 1986's "Swift Sword I".

Air Vice-Marshal Mohammed bin Mahfoudh al Ardhi, Commander of the Royal Air Force of Oman, commands the exercises joint forces. Lt. General Khamis bin Humaid al Kalbani, Chief of Staff of the Sultans Armed Forces, is the Exercise Swift Sword II Director. 

Planned long before the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, the event is designed to allow Britain to test long-distance deployment of large numbers of units from the Royal Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The Royal Navy's flagship is the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. This has been described as the largest fleet assembled by the Royal Navy since the Falklands conflict in 1982.

BBC Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner made a point of noting that local Arabs feared that a western military strike against their fellow Muslim neighbour Afghanistan was imminent, but failed to note that Osama Bin Laden's terror campaign could also target the Persian Gulf states. 

British officers insist that despite the rumors, "Swift Sword II" remains purely an exercise. While this exercise had started four years before the 11 September terrorist attack on America, UK Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon told the press on 26 September that the British forces would be available for a strike against terrorist targets "should they be required." 

15 Harrier jump jets (HMS Illustrious)
12 Tornado F3s (Oman)
2 Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft (Bahrain) 
VC10 transport aircraft (Bahrain) 
8 Tornado GR4 fighters (Kuwait)
6 Tornado F3 interceptors (Saudi Arabia) 
4 Jaguars (Turkey)

Special Air Services (SAS) 
Special Boat Services (SBS) 
3,000 Royal Marines
Armored Brigade (500 armored vehicles, including 66 Challenger 2 tanks)

HMS Illustrious
2 assault vessels
2 destroyers
2 frigates
5 mine-clearing ships 
Almost a dozen logistical support 
3 nuclear-powered submarines.
40 Omani Air Force warplanes 
11 Omani Navy warships 
14,000 Omani troops- Adam Geibel


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