Held in Abu Dhabi, the IDEX defense exhibition is traditionally the platform for the United Arab Emirates to announce major deals. But apart from a possible buy of Predator UAVs and an H-60 upgrade (see separate stories), there was nothing on the UAE’s big-ticket items at last week’s event. Even the much-anticipated deal for the THAAD high-altitude air defense system has not been finalized.
Although the supply of French Rafale combat jets to the UAE was not finalized at the Dubai Airshow, there were plenty of indications that negotiations are going well. In an unusual departure from custom, the former head of the UAE Air Force gave a detailed interview on the progress of the deal to The National, the main newspaper in Abu Dhabi.
Officials from Team Rafale are quietly confident that a deal for up to 60 airplanes will be made with the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, they are signing agreements here at the show with local entities that further strengthen the French influence in Emirati education and industry.
MBDA’s joint venture with Abu Dhabi-based Baynuna Aviation Technology, dubbed Baynuna MBDA Missile Technologies (BMT), has just been incorporated. It was announced in February as a 49-51 effort between the European missile manufacturer and the local company.
French engine maker Snecma (Stand W420) and Baynuna Aviation Technology (BAT), a Abu Dhabi-based defense company, have formed a joint venture called Snecbat Engine Technologies, which will also be based in Abu Dhabi. Snecbat’s capabilities are to include civil and military engines services.
The Dassault Rafale combat jet may yet prove to be an export winner, despite no such orders being placed to date. The OEM is negotiating a contract with the United Arab Emirates air force, and Kuwait has formally expressed interest in the aircraft.
Technical negotiations with the United Arab Emirates for what will be the first export sale of the Dassault Aviation Rafale combat jet, are almost complete. But commercial and government talks continue, so a formal announcement is probably still some months away. Deliveries are unlikely before 2013. At the Paris Air Show, Dassault displayed two scale models of the Rafale with weapons configurations that are unique to the UAE.
“Une fois Mirage, toujours Mirage!” insists Thierry Goetschmann. “Once you have flown the delta you never want to fly anything else,” said the pilot of the Mirage IIIDS-EMIR that graces the Paris Air Show. Goetschmann is the world’s only civilian-rated Mirage III pilot, and a veteran of 1,100 hours in the type. He will fly the Mirage in the air display over the weekend, which will be nostalgic viewing for many here.
Thales is engineering a series of upgrades to the sensor systems aboard France’s Rafale that will be incorporated in the next batch of aircraft for the French armed forces and should enhance Dassault’s chances in current fighter procurements contests in Brazil, India and Switzerland.
Lockheed Martin announced on October 7 a $393.6 million contract to supply four C-130J-30 “stretched” Hercules military transports to the Qatar Emiri Air Force beginning in 2011. This comes a few months after the Qataris signed a deal to acquire from Boeing two C-17s, which will be delivered next summer. Currently the QEAF has no tactical/strategic airlift capability, so the new purchases signal a dramatic change in air force doctrine.