Rafale, JF-17 Fighters ‘Set For Clash’ As Saudi Hosts Spears Of Victory Drills; Typhoons, F-15s, F-16s Join In

British Eurofighter Typhoons, amongst others, have recently arrived in Saudi Arabia to participate in this year’s Spears of Victory exercise hosted at the King Abdulaziz Air Base.

The fighter jets belonging to XI (Fighter) Squadron are based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, which serves as one of the two RAF Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Stations responsible for safeguarding UK airspace. 

The Royal Air Force views participation in this multinational exercise as a highly significant training opportunity for its force enablers to collaborate closely with regional strategic partners.

The Spears of Victory exercise, which commenced on February 6 and will extend until February 18, is a multinational air warfare training event hosted by Saudi Arabia. 

It has drawn personnel from various branches of the Kingdom’s military and contingents from Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, France, Greece, Pakistan, and the United States.

Squadron Leader Hodgkinson, UK Detachment Commander, said, “Spears of Victory 24 is a significant training opportunity for our force enablers to work alongside strategic partners in the region to demonstrate the Combat Air capacity of our highly trained pilots and engineers in the Typhoon Force.

Now, as much as never before, we strive for excellence in air dominance – collaborating with allies that have come together to demonstrate their commitment to stability in the Broader Middle East.”

The exercise’s focal points include defensive counter-air, offensive counter-air operations, and air interdiction exercises against live and simulated adversaries. 

In a press release, the Royal Air Force highlighted, “The objective being to test the reactions of pilots in a variety of situations in a challenging air environment.”

Beyond the multitude of fast jets engaged, the exercise benefits from support rendered by a diverse array of transport, tanker, and airborne early warning systems aircraft, complemented by helicopters facilitating the execution of daily training simulations. 

Furthermore, critical elements such as command and control, mission planning, and integration training form the backbone of the exercise, ensuring a comprehensive learning experience for all participants. 

Notably, including actual and simulated air defenses adds depth to the training, with each nation alternating as ‘aggressors’ throughout the exercise.

A British Typhoon fighter jet on a Finish road strip

The overarching objective of Spears of Victory is to enhance the tactical understanding of all involved nations. Through collaborative efforts, the exercise fosters the capacity of participating nations to plan and execute intricate missions amid contested airspace scenarios jointly.

Although the United States Detachment is abstaining from aerial maneuvers this year, they’ve dispatched a versatile unit of National Guardsmen to engage in ground support tasks encompassing fire safety, security, and logistical duties crucial for the exercise’s smooth operation. 

Other Fighter Aircraft Engaged In The Exercise

The current iteration of the exercise marks its fourth edition and is situated in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia. This location offers a prime opportunity to enhance interoperability among the participating Air Forces, particularly in light of shared aerial defense challenges.

In addition to the RAF Typhoons, the Royal Saudi Air Force is deploying their own Typhoons, Tornados, and F-15s. Bahrain, Greece, and the UAE are participating with F-16s, while Qatar is using its F-15 jets.

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The French Air and Space detachment is bolstering the exercise with Rafale fighters, and the Royal Air Force of Oman is participating with Typhoons. Furthermore, the Pakistan Air Force is showcasing their JF-17s as part of the multinational endeavor.

This could be a rare event when JF-17s and Rafales could be coming face-to-face. Interestingly, arch-rivals India and Pakistan operate these fighters with IAF (Rafale) and PAF (JF-17s), and both would be keen to evaluate each other’s performance.

Pakistan Air Force said, “Pakistan Air Force contingent will showcase its enhanced combat potential at the exercise alongside its JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, dedicated air & ground crew.

“The participation highlights PAF’s commitment to regional and international cooperation and underscores its capabilities and prowess to operate in diverse and challenging environments.” 


“Through implementing a revised training paradigm and the strategic induction plan of niche technologies, PAF has reaffirmed its operational readiness and unwavering commitment to addressing contemporary strategic challenges.

“These initiatives have not only bolstered operational preparedness but have also underscored PAF’s dedication to staying at the forefront of operational excellence and adaptability in the face of evolving threats,” PAF added. 

Beyond strengthening military relations, the exercise serves as a platform for practicing the integrated deployment of combat and combat support assets. It also facilitates formulating and validating tactics tailored to address contemporary threats.