x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ammunition plant to bolster arms manufacturing industry

Abu Dhabi is aiming to expand its arms manufacturing industry with plans to complete an ammunition plant next year.

On target: locally made weapons and ammunition are popular at shooting competitions such as the one the Abu Dhabi Police hold every year.
On target: locally made weapons and ammunition are popular at shooting competitions such as the one the Abu Dhabi Police hold every year.

Abu Dhabi is aiming to expand its arms manufacturing industry with plans to complete an ammunition plant next year. Tawazun Holding, the investment arm of the Offset Programme Bureau, said the plant would supply 9mm, 5.56mm and 7.62mm bullets for pistols and rifles. The company said it had reached an agreement with the General Headquarters of the UAE Armed Forces to guarantee the supply of small-calibre ammunition when production begins at the plant next year. The company did not reveal how much ammunition the factory was expected to produce, or the total cost of the deal.

A Tawazun spokesman said the plant would be developed in partnership with "a globally recognised leader in defence technology", but did not reveal the company's partner. This is Tawazun's second arms factory in Abu Dhabi. In 2007, the company announced a factory for making explosive ordnance such as bombs and artillery shells. Tawazun also owns Caracal International, the producer of the UAE's first locally made pistol.

Riad Kahwaji, the chief executive of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said the key factor for the UAE was self-sufficiency."[The UAE] wants to be self-dependent in its industry, in its arms and especially ammunition," Mr Kahwaji said. "If something happens - let's say a supplier is cut off for political reasons - that stops providing the ammo, you'd have your home factories who would provide the needed arms supplies. It would also be much cheaper."

Mr Kahwaji said there was no reason to believe current import arrangements with Europe, the US and South Africa would be threatened, while the commercial benefits were also substantial. "The UAE is slowly but steadily starting to occupy a larger sector of the defence market. And if it makes money, why not?" The ammunition produced would fit all of the UAE Armed Forces's rifles and pistols, although the government would still have to import rounds for heavy-calibre weapons such as machine guns.

The trade in small-arms ammunition, including small-calibre cartridges and shotgun shells, is estimated to be worth US$1.77 billion (Dh6.5bn), according to this year's Small Arms Survey. @Email:gregor.hunter@thenational.ae