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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

UAE buys rifles from South Korea

The UAE has agreed to buy from South Korean companies as much as US$560,000 (Dh2m) worth of specialised assault rifles.
The UAE Armed Forces is making its first purchase of South Korean assault rifles.
The UAE Armed Forces is making its first purchase of South Korean assault rifles.

The UAE has agreed to buy from South Korean companies as much as US$560,000 (Dh2m) worth of specialised assault rifles, in the first defence deal to follow Abu Dhabi's landmark $20.4 billion nuclear accord with the Asian nation. The order is for 40 K11 airburst rifles and makes the UAE the first foreign customer for the weapon.

The K11 rifle consists of a semi-automatic 20mm grenade launcher, an underslung assault carbine firing 5.56mm NATO-standard rounds, and a top-mounted, computer-assisted sighting system with integrated laser rangefinder and thermal infrared night-vision capabilities, according to the developers. The weapon's "smart shell" operates on a computer-controlled fuse. The 20mm round explodes several feet above its target. The round is also capable of puncturing concrete walls.

A blooming of trade and partnerships between the UAE and South Korea has been widely expected and closely watched after the successful campaign of Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO) for the contract to build four nuclear reactors in Abu Dhabi. This week, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, made his second official trip to South Korea, where he visited KEPCO's nuclear facilities and spoke of a "dire need to develop alternative sources of clean, efficient and safe energy to serve the needs of continuing development".

In their industrial co-operation, the two countries have focused on semiconductors, clean energy and shipbuilding. Their co-operation includes a preliminary agreement between Abu Dhabi Ship Building and South Korea's STX Offshore and Shipbuilding to collaborate on offshore support vessels. The rifle is being purchased by the UAE on a trial basis, according to news reports, and a final signing of the rifle contract is expected in the next two months. Each rifle costs about $14,000.

"Once a final contract is signed, it will be the first export sale of the K11, possibly making it one of the country's major export items together with the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet and the K2 Black Panther main battle tank," said a statement from South Korea's defence acquisition programme administration. While the value of the rifle contract was small, analysts said it was a sign of the growing ties between the two countries.

"The value of this rifles contract is not significant, but it definitely shows the UAE considering not stopping at nuclear contracts. They are looking for other venues to develop between the two states," said Mustafa Alani, the director of security and defence at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre. It also shows a break from the UAE's traditional reliance on western-made defence products, he said.

The UAE is considered a promising market to help South Korea boost its small but growing military exports. The T-50 is considered to be in the running for the UAE's requirements to replace its ageing fleet of BAE Hawk trainer jets and is up against an Italian company, Alenia Aermacchi, which provisionally won the contest last year but has yet to sign a contract with the UAE. South Korea created the K11 two years ago, and it is seen as a rival to the US Army's XM-29 individual combat weapon. It reportedly weighs 13.4 pounds (6.07kg) and has an effective range of up to 500 metres.

The rifle was developed by the agency for defence development and S&T Daewoo, and has been used by the South Korean army for more than a year. @Email:igale@thenational.ae * with agencies