x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Missile firm to help Emirates rocket ahead

The Life: Florent Duleux, vice president for the Middle East of missile systems company MBDA, speaks about how his company is involved in the development of the sector in the UAE.

Florent Duleux, the Middle East vice president for MBDA, says plans are afoot to set up a factory in the UAE. Charles Crowell for The National
Florent Duleux, the Middle East vice president for MBDA, says plans are afoot to set up a factory in the UAE. Charles Crowell for The National

As part of its Economic Vision 2030, the Abu Dhabi Government is trying to diversify away from oil to grow the emirate's economy. Florent Duleux, the vice president for Middle East export sales for the missile systems company MBDA, talks about the company's push to be a part of the local defence industry.

q&a

q MBDA has had a presence in the region for 30 years. How has the business here changed over time?

a The first contract initiated here was following the equipment of platforms, either aircraft or ships. Over recent years, the need has evolved much more into systems not necessarily associated with platforms, which are still part of the needs - obviously, either for aircraft or ships - but also in the air defence systems for which MBDA can refer a complete multi-layer system. That is to say from a range of brands up to medium-range air defence, fully adaptive to the threats in the region.

q You are now in talks with the federal Government about developing a local defence industry, how are discussions going?

a MBDA has made the strategic choice to be part of it, to be at the forefront of it, and we are having discussions regarding the settlement of MBDA here as a missile industry and our participation into the development of the local defence industry. And I think that if in a few years from now we can see some common systems developed in the UAE and re-exported from the UAE as a regional hub, that would be a great achievement for MBDA.

q And you are going to set up a factory?

a Absolutely, we're having very deep discussions at the moment with the UAE authorities. We started that process a while ago and we are very hopeful that 2012 will be the ending of that process and a decision [will be] taken by both parties to launch the … factory.

q What will the factory produce?

a We make missiles and missile systems, and the discussions we have are for both. A good example is the air defence systems: you have multi-layers of missiles and site launchers, but you have one system to launch it and to coordinate all that, and MBDA is manufacturing the whole of it. We have already set up some local companies which could do some subcontracting for us as well.

q Do you plan to hire locally?

a The purpose is to develop jobs for UAE nationals. What we have in mind is to develop the knowledge regarding missile systems of the technicians and engineers [who], at the moment, [are] in college education in the UAE. Therefore, we are discussing with universities here in the UAE to add these modules to their current curriculums.

q How big is the gap in knowledge at the moment, and do UAE universities offer anything similar already?

a They have some ongoing programmes, which are being developed at the same time. The technology we will transfer here took us 50 years to build. The European industry has been built in 50 years and MBDA is the fruit of this 50 years of international cooperation. This is unique. The gain in time to welcome such technology is huge for the UAE.

gduncan@thenational.ae