x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Abu Dhabi in defence hub talks

ADSB and Raytheon, the US defence contractor, are in talks to set up a joint venture to maintain and recertify naval missiles.

Workers work on the bow of a military ship at ADSB, Abu Dhabi, on Dec 14 2008.
Workers work on the bow of a military ship at ADSB, Abu Dhabi, on Dec 14 2008.

Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB) and Raytheon, the US defence contractor, are in talks to set up a joint venture to maintain and recertify Raytheon's naval missiles in the Gulf. The initiative would create the region's first facility to handle the sophisticated re-certification process required to maintain missile systems throughout their lifespan. It joins other efforts to make Abu Dhabi a regional centre for the defence industry covering maintenance, manufacturing and research and development.

Bill Saltzer, the chief executive of ADSB, said the plans involved servicing the Armed Force's arsenal of naval missiles from Raytheon and later expand to contracting with other regional governments. "Missiles have a 30-year lifespan, and every seven years they need to be recertified," he said. "Raytheon doesn't have any facility in this part of world at all to perform this maintenance and re-certification. There are customers out here who buy these missiles and have to send them back every seven years to the US to get recertified. Our idea is to create here in the UAE a facility to allow us to do that."

Raytheon has proposed the joint venture to satisfy its offset obligations from a pending deal to provide the Navy with Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM). Offsets are a system aimed at diversifying developing economies by requiring large arms contractors to contribute to other sectors of the client's economy. "We do not want to just deliver the weapons, but also to put in place a structured support process for the customer," a Raytheon official was quoted as saying by Jane's magazine last month at the IDEX defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

Raytheon is also providing the UAE with a Patriot missile defence system worth more than US$3.56 billion (Dh13.07bn), which is not part of the missile maintenance proposal, and has joined with Emirates Advanced Investments, a private firm, to jointly develop laser-guided Talon rockets for patrol helicopters. The RAM weaponry would be fitted on to the Baynunah corvette programme, in which six 72-metre warships are being built by ADSB for the Navy at a cost of more than $1bn. Raytheon is already providing missile launchers and Seasparrow missiles for the corvettes.

The service would be operated by ADSB and its subsidiary, Abu Dhabi Systems Integration, through technical equipment and expertise provided by Raytheon. Mr Saltzer said recertifying the missiles here increases their availability to the Navy. was greatly increased. "It also saves a tremendous amount of money in costs to the Government, because it is less expensive to do it here than send to the US every time."

Abu Dhabi is investing in new partnerships with western contractors firms to develop a sustainable defence industry. Last month Sikorsky Aerospace Services, an aircraft repair firm, signed a joint venture with Mubadala Development Company to develop an Abu Dhabi base for military aircraft maintenance. Mubadala, an investment arm of the Government has a 40 per cent stake in ADSB and is also behind initiatives for aircraft parts manufacturing and army vehicle maintenance and repair.

Recently, Mubadala has been joined by private sector companies firms also devoted to transferring western defence technology and expertise to the emirate, including ADCOM, Emirates Advanced Investments and Baynuna Aviation Technology. igale@thenational.ae