The Dubai Airshow ended as it had begun, with the defense business overshadowed by announcements of huge airliner deals. Nevertheless, this was a dynamic and fascinating event from a defense perspective. You can read all the important news in the defense channel.
The question of whether the U.S. will allow the UAE to acquire the F-35 was a major topic. The answer seems to be when, rather than whether. The real question is whether, behind the scenes, the U.S. is putting pressure on the Emiratis to stop flirting with the Russians. AIN reported that the UAE had paid for the Su-35 to come to the show. Sukhoi chief test pilot Sergei Bogodan certainly put on an amazing display of dynamic aerial maneuvering, using the jet’s thrust-vectoring and advanced flying control system to maximum effect.
But the expected order announcement did not come. UAE defense procurement officer Maj. Gen. Abdullah Al Hashmi told AIN that his country “is looking for a fifth-generation fighter. We are in engagement, and if the Su-35 is fifth-generation then yes, it will be evaluated by our technical committee.”
In the meantime, the UAE will upgrade its current fighters, the F-16 Block 60 and the Mirage 2000-9. The F-16 deal is done, worth $1.6 billion, but Lockheed Martin declined to specify details. The Mirage 2000-9 contract is still under negotiation. These developments seem to spell the end of any prospect of the UAE acquiring Eurofighters, Gripens, or Rafales. However, a Dassault source told AIN that he remains hopeful that the UAE will eventually acquire Rafales, since the country would want to ensure a continuing alternative source of combat aircraft after the F-35 enters service.
The UAE announced more procurement deals toward the end of the show, but the only new aircraft contract was for five Airbus C295W transports worth $142 million. The most striking contracts were for the re-supply of the UAE Air Forces’ weapons stocks, depleted by its major participation in the controversial, Saudi-led Operation Restoring Hope over Yemen. Raytheon is receiving $684 million for the supply of GBU-10 and GBU-12 "smart" bombs, and Chemical and Mechanical Industries of Turkey gets more than $20 million to deliver Mk82 and Mk84 "dumb" bombs. Local company Tawazun Dynamics got a $120 million order for its P3 guided bomb, which was on display for the first time. The weapon will be used by the UAE AF's Mirage 2000-9s.
Iomax has received an $11.2 million contract for “the modernization and provision of maintenance services for Air Tractor aircraft.” AIN understands that this contract relates to four aircraft that are operated by Jordan, which was gifted six of the original 24 armed conversions of the cropduster that were supplied to the UAE by Iomax. However, Jordan has also received four unarmed Air Tractors converted for ISR missions. These were supplied by L3, after Air Tractor switched allegiance to that systems integrator.