Military aircraft requirements in the Middle East and Asia worth billions of dollars remain unresolved, and will be a major talking point at next week’s Dubai Air Show. Most of the major aerospace companies will have a presence at the show, although the venue is unlikely to provide confirmation of any major order.
Heading the list of yet-to-be-done deals is the proposed sale of F-15 fighters and helicopters to Saudi Arabia worth no less than $55 billion. The Pentagon formally notified the U.S. Congress of the potential sales just over a year ago. The F-15 package includes 84 new-build F-15 Strike Eagles and an upgrade to 70 already in service. The helicopter package comprises 72 UH-60s, 36 AH-64Ds, 36 AH-6is and 12 MD 530Fs.
The UAE has not yet concluded long-running talks with France for the purchase of up to 60 Rafale combat aircraft. The F-15, F-18 and Eurofighter could all be alternatives. Alenia Aermacchi is once again displaying the M346 advanced jet trainer at the Dubai show, in the hope that the UAE might finally confirm another long mooted deal. The UAE has also not yet confirmed a proposed sale by the U.S. for 30 new AH-64Ds and the remanufacture of 30 in-service AH-64As.
Although the UAE has bought two Saab 2000 Erieye AEW aircraft, Northrop Grumman will again press the merits of the E-2D Hawkeye and the MESA radar, which is carried by the Boeing 737 Wedgetail AEW platform.
Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar are all potential buyers of more combat aircraft from Boeing, Dassault or Eurofighter. An outside contender could be the JF-17 Thunder fighter that Pakistan produces in a joint venture, and which will be displayed at the show. Airbus Military, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are eyeing the potential replacement of Saudi Arabia’s large C-130 fleet with A400Ms, C-17s or C-130Js. The Bell-Boeing V-22 team is bringing the Osprey tiltrotor for its Middle East debut, which has attracted a lot of interest, it says.
Meanwhile, India’s quest for a medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) is nearing a conclusion. The Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter are vying for a 124-aircraft order that has recently been valued at up to $20 billion. The commercial bids of the two finalists were unsealed last week. They contain detailed pricing for the aircraft and weapons, as well as for training, support and technology transfer.