The biggest talking point at this week’s IDEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi was the announcement by Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov that the United Arab Emirates and Russia would jointly develop a fifth-generation light fighter. It will apparently be based on an advanced version of the Russian MiG-29. Chemezov also claimed that the UAE has been in separate discussions regarding the purchase of Sukhoi Su-35s.
The news came during the visit of a high-level Russian delegation led by trade and industry minister Denis Manturov. The minister and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, witnessed the signing of an agreement between Russia and the UAE covering cooperation in the defense industries. Manturov commented, “One of the fields of this cooperation is the creation, development and supply of the fifth-generation fighter jet.” Another deal was struck in which Middle East investors aim to acquire a minority stake in Russian Helicopters.
There were few firm aviation-related orders announced at the show. The most notable was one worth approximately $236 million from the UAE Air Force for a third Saab GlobalEye swing-role surveillance system from the Swedish manufacturer. At the Dubai Air Show in November 2015, the UAE announced an order for two of these aircraft, based on the Global 6000 business jet. At that same time, the UAE also ordered an update of the Erieye radar on its two Saab 340AEW aircraft to incorporate Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology.
Iomax displayed the 23rd of 24 Archangel armed ISR aircraft for the UAE; the final aircraft from the current order is due to be delivered in March. Based on the Thrush S2R-660 airframe, the Archangel fleet is replacing the UAE’s original 24 Air Tractor AT-802-based Block 1 and 2 Border Patrol Aircraft supplied by Iomax. Six of the original aircraft have been transferred to Jordan, and 12 are in the process of being supplied to Egypt for border surveillance duties.
NorthStar Aviation displayed a model of its 429MRT (multi-role twin) program. An armed version of the Bell 429, this follows on from the 407MRH multi-role helicopter conversion program that has supplied 30 helicopters to the UAE’s Joint Aviation Command. Some potential customers have stated a preference for a twin-engine helicopter, and NorthStar has started work on adapting the 407MRH conversion concept to the 429. Both the 407MRH and the Iomax BPA aircraft have seen action with UAE forces in Yemen.
Among new programs unveiled at IDEX was the KT-112UD armed version of the Ukrainian KT-112 three-seat light helicopter. A model was shown armed with four Bar’er-V anti-tank missiles, six Strela or Igla air-to-air weapons, and a 0.5-in machine gun. In the UAV domain, New Space Technologies from the Czech Republic showed its CANTAS (canard tail-sitter) UAV, which in two of its three configurations can take off and land vertically, its main engine being augmented by electric motors buried in the wings.
Another notable UAV debutant was the Skyguard from Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan Advanced Tech. Research Institute (PSATRI). The design is in flight test, and is a 10-/12-hour endurance vehicle capable of fully autonomous operations. It can carry an L-3 Wescam MX-10 electro-optical turret under the nose, or the larger MX-15 under the belly.