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Aircraft repair depot for Abu Dhabi

The deal will see regional air forces' most advanced fixed wing and rotorcraft maintained here.

Mubadala Development, an Abu Dhabi investment unit, will establish the region's most advanced military aircraft maintenance centre in the emirate through a preliminary agreement signed with Sikorsky Aerospace Services at the IDEX military expo yesterday. The deal is targeting a regional market of up to US$4 billion (Dh14.69bn) annually to service fixed-wing and rotorcraft operated by regional air forces, including fighter jets such as the F-16 and attack helicopters such as the Black Hawk. "Our partnership with Sikorsky Aerospace Services fits our commercial strategy to evolve the emirate of Abu Dhabi's existing aerospace industry into a global aerospace hub," said Waleed al Muhairi, the chief operating officer of Mubadala. A team from Sikorksy Aerospace Services will base themselves in the emirate to help create a centre for first and second-line maintenance as well as depot-level repairs. By the end of the next decade, the as yet unnamed joint venture is expected to create 4,000 jobs in the emirate, including 3,000 for Emiratis, according to Homaid al Shemarri, the associate director of aerospace at Mubadala. At present, much of the military maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work for the region is done in the US and Europe, while in Saudi Arabia Boeing has formed a joint venture for military MRO called the Al Salaam Aircraft Company. Mubadala is positioning itself to become a global player in defence services and capitalise on a trend for militaries to outsource non-core functions to the private sector, including pilot training and engine maintenance. Its affiliate companies service the UAE Armed Forces in outsourcing deals including satellite telecommunications, IT support, ship building and land vehicle maintenance. Other strategic initiatives that Mubadala is bringing to the emirate include establishing the region's first composites manufacturing facility to build parts for Airbus aircraft, and teaming with the world leader in aerospace education, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, to offer courses beginning next autumn at the UAE University in Al Ain. The new MRO company will assume the military contracts of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies, a Mubadala company based at Abu Dhabi International Airport and three UAE military bases, allowing it to concentrate wholly on its commercial airliner business, where it includes Etihad Airways as a major customer. Sikorsky Aerospace Services is a subsidiary of Sikorksy Aircraft Corp, the 70-year-old US manufacturer of civilian and military rotorcraft including the Black Hawk. The maintenance company already holds contracts with the US air force and navy to service not only its own aircraft but also those made by other aerospace companies, including the Lockheed Martin and its F-16, in use by the UAE Air Force. The US-based MRO provider, with revenues of about $2bn annually, is relying heavily on the joint venture to reach new customers in the region and achieve a target of more than doubling revenues by 2012. David Adler, the president of Sikorsky Aerospace Services, said the goal of the military MRO initiative was to create a "one-stop shop" for all logistics needs for the UAE Armed Forces, in addition to servicing the wider Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region. "We wanted to align ourselves with a partner with the right expertise," he said of Mubadala. igale@thenational.ae

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