Dubai Airshow Wrap-Up: Defense Stories

 - November 22, 2013, 12:08 PM
The Dubai Airshow moved to a new venue but looked much the same. Heavy rain forced cancellation of the last day. (Photo: Chris Pocock)

The heavy rain that forced organizers to cancel the last day of the Dubai Airshow was a metaphor for the main defense story of the week. The prospect of the UAE ordering a new fighter–specifically the Eurofighter Typhoon–had been talked up by UK officials in particular, and reinforced by an eve-of-show visit by the British Prime Minister. But the former UAE Air Force commander dampened speculation by telling AIN that the Emirate is in no hurry to conclude a deal. However, this absence of urgency could ultimately help the Typhoon, which is making progress toward multi-role capability. The French were keeping quiet about the Rafale’s prospects both here and elsewhere in the Gulf, but Boeing was pushing the Advanced version of the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

A larger expanse of concrete was available at the new airshow site for aircraft static display, allowing the UAE’s Special Operations Command to present an unusual array of aircraft. They included a highly modified Air Tractor agricultural aircraft and an armed Cessna 208 Caravan. The Alenia MC-27J Praetorian special ops variant of the Spartan airlifter was on display, and during the show the Italian air force signed for a prototype and six conversions of existing C-27Js.

There was more news with an Italian flavor at the show. AgustaWestland brought mockups of the AW169 and AW189 helicopters. By the end of the show, it announced orders from the Dubai Police for five AW169s and from the Dubai Air Wing for a single VIP-configured AW189. Piaggio shared exhibit space with its local shareholder, Mubadala, where it showed off the full-scale mockup of the P.1HH Hammerhead. During the show, the company announced the first flight of this unmanned version of the Avanti for ISR missions.

The Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft made its international airshow debut, and the Airbus Military A400M airlifter was a first-time visitor to the Dubai Airshow. The Pakistani/Chinese JF-17 Thunder fighter made a return visit, with news of a Block 2 development.

There was no Russian hardware on display, but AIN noted that the country’s air defense systems and helicopters are still being sold to the region, including Iraq.

We also reported on the Air Chiefs’ Conference, held once again the day before the show opened. Operational integration of air forces was discussed there, and in our related interview story on missile defense integration possibilities in the Gulf. Lockheed Martin may have a contract to integrate air and missile defenses in the UAE. AIN also described regional missile defense activities at Lockheed Martin with MEADS and THAAD, and Raytheon with Patriot.