This week’s IDEX defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi provided the first public view of the Saab 340AEW, purchased by the UAE Air Force and Air Defense as an interim airborne early-warning solution. One of two aircraft in service made a single flypast during a brief force demonstration. The air force’s latest acquisition, the Airbus A330 MRTT, also flew past, accompanied by four Mirage 2000-9 fighters, just days after being delivered. The remaining pair from the UAE’s order will be delivered later this year.
A number of new UAE contracts were revealed during the week, including an order for the General Atomics Predator XP UAV worth about $197 million. The order, placed via the UAE-based International Golden Group, covers an unspecified number of the export-cleared MQ-1 version. They will feature upturned drag-reducing winglets and be equipped with the General Atomics Lynx SAR/GMTI radar and an EO/IR payload to be selected by the UAE.
Raytheon received an order for GBU-12 and GBU-58 bomb kits, while Turkey’s Roketsan was selected to provide Cirit laser-guided rockets (LGRs), in cooperation with local company Tawazun. The future of the competing Raytheon Talon LGR is uncertain in the light of the Cirit selection. The UAE also intends to purchase the Tawazun Al Tariq glide bomb kit, which was developed (as the Umbani) by South Africa’s Denel.
Local maintenance company AMMROC, a joint venture of Mubadala, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, received a contract to deepen its MRO engagement with the UAE Armed Forces. AMMROC was also contracted to upgrade the UAE Air Force’s six C-130H Hercules with glass cockpits and other new systems, as well as to overhaul the navy’s Panther helicopters. Provincial Aircraft will install satellite communications in the DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft.
Piaggio Aero unveiled an unmanned version of its Avanti II twin turboprop at the show. Known as the P.1HH HammerHead, the UAV features an enlarged wing and a large fuel tank and mission systems in the former cabin space. Mission systems are based on the Selex ES skyIStar, while Rockwell Collins will provide the avionics. Piaggio reports that taxi trials began at an Italian military base in early February. The UAE previously showed interest in a multi-role patrol version of the Avanti.
UAE-based Adcom Systems also showed the United 40 Block 5, a modification of the tandem-wing UAV that was first shown at the Dubai show in 2011. It has lost its tail-mounted pusher engine in favor of two small engines mounted under the forward wing.
While Eurofighter and Dassault were much in evidence, supported by high-level ministerial delegations from the UK and France, no major announcements were made about the UAE’s fighter requirement. However, Eurofighter revealed that Tawazun has delivered its first part for the Typhoon, a test item for a rear fuselage frame assembly. This is the first fruit of an industrial partnership announced during a visit to the UAE by UK Prime Minister David Cameron last November.