Eight senior air force commanders from the U.S., Europe and the Middle East have agreed to speak at the Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference (DIAC), which immediately precedes the Dubai Air Show on November 16. They include the British and French air force commanders, and the commander of the USAF’s Central Command. Their decision to attend the conference and show may reflect a desire to reassure allies in the Gulf of their support, after recent disagreements over policy toward Egypt and Syria. They will presumably also seek to influence future procurement decisions by Western-leaning Gulf countries.
In particular, the air chiefs of France, the UK and the U.S. might be eyeing the long-postponed decision by the UAE Air Force for up to 60 combat aircraft. After some years when it seemed that France was well placed to secure an order for the Dassault Rafale, the UAE declined to commit and began to consider alternatives, notably the Eurofighter Typhoon. Then, last April, a senior Pentagon official said the UAE had decided to buy another 25 Lockheed Martin F-16E/F fighters. However, the U.S. Congress has not been formally notified of that sale, leading observers to speculate about its status.
Meanwhile, government and industry sources in the UK have been expressing cautious optimism that the UAE will indeed opt for the Eurofighter Typhoon. At a briefing for journalists last July, assistant chief of the air staff AVM Ed Stringer said: “The Emiratis are showing themselves to be good friends. We’re exercising with them and other countries in the Middle East. They see us as long-term partners, which perhaps will extend to defense sales.”
DIAC is organized by the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (Inegma), the UAE-based think tank.