The militaries of Oman and the US are holding joint exercises codenamed “Valley of Fire 2021”. The 11-day drill hosted at the sultanate’s Thumrait Air Base began yesterday and will involve the Royal Army’s 11th Infantry Brigade and American infantry units.
According to the Times of Oman, the sultanate’s paratroopers, Armoured Division and Artillery will be participating. The Royal Air Force and Signals and Engineering divisions are also expected to take part.
The exercise, reports the Times, aims “to maintain preparedness and high combat ability” and comes within the context of annual training programmes carried out “in cooperation with friendly countries to exchange expertise in military fields”.
This year’s Valley of Fire comes amid heightened tensions in the Gulf, with the sultanate confirming reports that a tanker off the coast of neighbouring UAE was targeted in an apparent “hijacking incident” yesterday. The identities of the group of eight or nine men remain unknown but some maritime security sources believe they had the backing of Iran, a claim denied by Tehran. Last week, Iran was also suspected of being behind a drone strike on the Mercer Street oil tanker off the coast of Oman, which killed two crew members.