x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE on target after missile flight tests

A partnership involving a US defence contractor and a UAE investment firm will start manufacturing laser-guided rocket technology in the Emirates next year.

A partnership involving a US defence contractor and a UAE investment firm will start manufacturing laser-guided rocket technology in the Emirates next year, following successful flight tests of their Talon system this month. The two firms, Raytheon and Emirates Advanced Investments (EAI), said tests last week showed that 70-millimetre missiles equipped with the Talon laser guidance and control kit exceeded accuracy requirements at ranges of 3.7km and 5km at Raytheon's proving grounds in Yuma, Arizona. The missile completed the trials by hitting a 1.5-metre square target during both tests.

"EAI and RMS are working together on this innovative programme, combining the skills and assets of two countries to bring a world-class system to the United Arab Emirates armed forces and allies," said Hussain al Hammadi, the chief executive officer of EAI. "I am very pleased with the success this programme is achieving." The technology is being billed as a low-cost upgrade to existing, unguided rockets for attack helicopters. They are designed to destroy targets including tactical armoured vehicles and high-speed naval craft. "It fills the critical operational capability gap between unguided rockets and guided heavy anti-tank missiles," the two companies said.

EAI, which is privately owned, has stated its priorities are to focus on initiatives that include developing the UAE workforce and training Emiratis. Last May, Mr al Hammadi said the partnership with Raytheon "represents a hands-on development effort for our engineers that will provide future benefits for the armed forces of both our countries". EAI's investment in the rocket programme helped save Raytheon millions of dollars in development costs, the companies have said. As part of the joint development deal, a follow-on production proposal involves manufacturing the laser-guided rockets in both the US and the UAE starting next year.

If successful, the manufacturing project would become another coup for the UAE's efforts to stimulate a home-grown defence industry as part of diversification efforts which include naval shipbuilding, firearms and munitions. The first customer of the Talon system is expected to be the UAE Armed Forces, which operates a fleet of Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters, followed by the US and other allies.

The UAE has been a purchaser of US arms and technology, including the Patriot missile defence system and a pending deal for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system under development by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Last month, the Armed Forces requested Hellfire missiles and related equipment and services worth up to US$526 million (Dh1.93 billion) from Lockheed Martin and other US contractors.

igale@thenational.ae