x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Military splashes out on final day of IDEX

The UAE military is to buy 1,000 Nimr vehicles, the first defence industry product to be built entirely in the UAE, in a deal worth Dh736 million.

Delegates get to know a robotic guest of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference.
Delegates get to know a robotic guest of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference.

ABU DHABI // The UAE military is to buy 1,000 Nimr vehicles, the first defence industry product to be built entirely in the UAE, in a deal worth Dh736 million.

They are expected to be delivered in two to three years, but no other details were made public, including which types of the Nimr have been ordered.

The Advanced Military Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Centre (Ammroc), a local company, will also be awarded a major contract to maintain the nation's aircraft, including fighter jets, trainer planes and helicopters, the military announced yesterday.

Al Fattan, another local company, will add 18 new boats to the UAE Navy in a deal worth Dh356.7m.

At the closing of the International Defence Exhibition (Idex) yesterday, the Armed Forces also reiterated the modernity of its Mirage fighter fleet. However, it did not rule out other fighter jets such as the rival Eurofighter Typhoon.

"Our Mirage is still new, our F-16s are new," said Maj Gen Obeid al Ketbi, the spokesman for Idex. His statement came in response to questions about whether the UAE was considering the Eurofighter Typhoon in its plans to replace the Mirage fleet. The military's intention to replace the fleet was announced in 2008.

"We have different delegations that study different types of aircraft around the world," he said. "But that doesn't mean that we are going to replace our Mirages. We keep studying and researching for the best always, so no definite decision on this yet."

He added, however, that "all the options are open".

A Eurofighter executive said that the combat aircraft maker had briefed UAE Air Force officials on the capabilities of the Typhoon, and that Eurofighter was questioned about potential future advancements to the plane.

The comments by the UAE military and Eurofighter indicate that the Typhoon may be under consideration. If so, however, such talks are at a much earlier stage than those involving Dassault, the manufacturers of the Rafale and Mirage, which have been continuing for nearly three years.

Proponents of the Typhoon argue that the aircraft has a stronger track record than the Rafale. There are 240 Typhoons in service. About 700 purchase orders for the fighter have been placed through 2018.

In addition to the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, Saudi Arabia and Austria have purchased the Typhoon.

By contrast, France has yet to sign a deal to export its Rafale.

The UAE military signed defence contracts worth Dh14.5 billion in three days during Idex, a figure equivalent to a little over a third of the country's federal budget.

Gen al Ketbi yesterday restated his assertion that Idex was not affected by unrest around the Middle East.

"This is the biggest presence for international and national companies since Idex was launched in 1993," he said. "There is no impact from these issues at all."

Yet the total of this year's contracts falls short of the military deals signed during last year's Idex, when the UAE announced deals worth Dh18.5bn.

Gen al Ketbi said the UAE was not engaged in an arms race, and that its military deals depended only on the needs of the military.

"We are not in an arms or deals race," he said. "The deals that were reached are real requirements for the Armed Forces that were concluded with international companies and were announced."

More than 60,000 visitors attended the five-day Idex exhibition, including 130 official delegations that included ministers of defence and chiefs of staff. More than 1,000 companies were represented.

kshaheen@thenational.ae