There were no significant announcements by the United Arab Emirates in the aerospace sector during the IDEX show held in Abu Dhabi this week, as there have been at previous shows. A planned upgrade to the UAE Air Force’s large F-16 fighter fleet went unconfirmed. However, on the final day it was announced that two more Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transports are to be purchased at a cost of AED2.273 billion ($619 million). They will augment the six C-17s already in service.
Other announcements included the UAE purchase of nine AW139 helicopters from AgustaWestland. Six are to be used for search and rescue and three for VIP transport duties. The UAE also confirmed an order for the Al Tariq precision-guided weapon from Tawazun Dynamics. The company is a joint venture between Tawazun and Denel, and Al Tariq is based on the latter’s Umbani modular weapons product line.
NorthStar Aviation showed its 407MRH multi-role helicopter at IDEX. Unveiled at the Quad-A conference last May, the 407MRH is a Bell 407GX modified with sensors and weapons capability to perform a number of ISR and light attack roles. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi and owned by a member of that emirate’s royal family, NorthStar developed the 407MRH at its facility in Florida. The UAE Armed Forces has ordered 30, most likely for the special operations helicopter unit, and 11 of them have already been delivered with the remainder arriving at a monthly rate.
Eurofighter chose IDEX as the venue to sign the Typhoon Phase Three Enhancement (P3E) contract with the European partner governments. P3E will cost $250 million, for integration of the MBDA Brimstone 2 missile, plus an avionics upgrade that will extend the capability of previously integrated weapons, and some maintainability improvements. On a related note, Cobham unveiled a new "smart" triple-rail launcher at IDEX. This platform-agnostic launcher was shown carrying Brimstone missiles on the Typhoon replica and can also carry Paveway IV bombs and Spear 3 missiles.
L-3 Wescam announced an order for 28 of its MX-15D targeting/ISR turrets for installation on Iomax Archangel aircraft for a “customer within the UAE.” Although there has not been official confirmation, the Archangels are being procured to replace the older Air Tractor AT-802i border patrol aircraft in service with the UAE’s special operations aviation group. A number of the older aircraft have been passed on to Jordan.
It is understood that the special operations group is also operating the Viking Air Twin Otter 400. At IDEX Viking announced that it had delivered the ninth and final aircraft to Abu Dhabi-based Global Aerospace Logistics, a company that supports the special operations force. These aircraft have para-dropping provision and intermediate flotation gear that allows operations from loose sand. The UAE Armed Forces are known to have operated a small number of older Twin Otters previously.
Local company Adcom Systems unveiled the latest iteration of its United-40 tandem-wing MALE. The Block 6 is intended for the anti-submarine mission and was developed in cooperation with Finmeccanica’s Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei. The Block 6 can lay patterns of sonobuoys and then prosecute a target with a single WASS torpedo carried externally. Adcom and WASS plan to demonstrate a torpedo drop later this year.
South Africa’s Denel Dynamics displayed its Spyder UAV for the first time. This is an armed version of the Seeker 400 that has recently been cleared for production. The company’s Impi-S missile is carried under the wings. Reports suggest that Saudi Arabia is working with Denel to establish a local UAV manufacturing capability and that the Spyder could form a part of that. The German Luna X 2000 small UAV is already made under license in Saudi Arabia: an example was on show at IDEX.
Among the display of models on China’s Catic stand was a new UAV design. Known as Nimble Loong, the 30-kg vehicle features a twin-boom configuration and pusher propeller engine. In size and mission it is directly comparable to the Boeing/Insitu RQ-21A Blackjack.