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Emirati Air Force - Fighter Aircraft

The Clinton Administration in 1995 loosened arms export controls. Part of the decision process contained in this policy considers, "the impact [on] U.S. industry and the defense-industrial base.” As a result of this policy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was granted their request to purchase 80 F-16 fighters packed with more advanced technology than those in the current U.S. inventory. Among major weapons systems sold by the United States in 2000 were 80 new production F-16 block 60 combat fighter aircraft to the United Arab Emirates through a licensed commercial agreement with a value of $6.432 billion.

This agreement with the U.A.E. was the one of the largest combat aircraft sales ever made by the United States to date, and accounted for a substantial portion of the overall total of U.S. arms transfer agreements with the developing world in 2000. These aircraft have a range and avionics capability (among other things) that are superior to US F-16s. Controversy had surrounded the most advanced version of the F-16 since the announced its sale on 25 May 1999. Some people object to contributing to an arms race in a volatile area, while others oppose the sale of a superior weapon system overseas when the US Air Force itself cannot afford it. The F-16 Block 60 program is a showcase of cooperation; the UAE took delivery of the last of 79 F-16 aircraft, also known as the Desert Falcon, in October 2007, one having been lost in a mishap since the original purchase of 80 planes.

Two huge fighter acquisitions by the UAE Air Force within six months of each other in 1998 underlined the linkage being made by the UAE leadership between national prosperity and military strength. The UAE Army is well into its upgrade with a $3.5 billion procurement of Leclerc tanks from Giat of France -- the UAE's biggest offset program so far. The UAE Air Force expansion, including buying 30 French Mirage 2000-9 fighters and 80 new-version F-16s from the US, cost upwards of $11 billion and yielded an offset three times that for the Leclerc tanks.

The upgrading of the UAE Air Force was by far the biggest of the armed forces expansion plans. The UAE Navy will be the last service to benefit. It has had $2 billion earmarked for what is known as Project Liwa -- a three-phase acquisition of frigates, offshore patrol vessels and naval shipyard facilities. As the UAE requires a minimum offset of 60 per cent on large import programmes, and these air force and naval procurements both began being bid for about five years ago, they represent a massive pent-up injection of investment in the UAE.

In so far as budget contingencies have been building up year after year to finance these acquisitions, the repeated deferrals of these expenditures must have had a deflationary effect on the UAE economy. The bigger than expected size and the timing of the two fighter acquisitions must thus be seen as a particularly strong government-led stimulus to growth in the UAE economy through the turn of the century.

The UAE Air Force's fighter strength was set to become half that of Saudi Arabia's (even after the latter went through with a delayed replacement of older F-5 fighters, probably with the same advanced "Block 60' F-16s). In terms of the combat effectiveness of individual aircraft, the UAE's F-16s and Mirage 2000-9s, which include 33 Mirage 2000 SAD8s already in-service, modernised to the Mirage 2000-9 standard, were likely to match or better Saudi Arabia's fighters, including the F-15 and the Tornado. They would certainly out-perform if not out-number the fighters of potential adversaries, Iran and Iraq.

Following a visit by US defence secretary Chuck Hagel in April 2013, the US Defence Department announced that the Emirates was planning to buy additional F-16s. But Eurofighter Typhoon, built by a European consortium, and the French company Dassault’s Rafale remained locked in a contest to supply about 60 fighter jets to the UAE Air Force to replace its ageing Dassault Mirage 2000s.

Dassault was looking for customers to buy the Mirage 2000-9 aircraft that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) intended to replace with Rafales, Chief Executive Charles Edelstenne said March 19, 2009. A first delivery of the Rafale to the UAE would not be before 2012; and the UAE Air Force would probably need about three year’s time to train aircrews on the new aircraft. DGA Chief Executive Laurent Collet-Billon said March 17, 2009 that the French Air Force would not be taking the Mirage 2000-9s from the UAE. As of mid-2013 the best candidate seemed to be Libya.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the UAE 25-26 May 2009. As is customary on such visits, economic interests are also high on the agenda and his entourage included key private sector executives, and reportedly 80 parliamentary deputies. Sarkozy reportedly pressed for the sale of up to 41 billion dirham (11 billion USD) worth of Rafale fighter jets; the deal apparently involved the first overseas sale of the Rafale from France's Dassault Aviation, for up to 60 aircraft.

The UAE had been considering a new fighter since 2007, and opened negotiations with France for a large fleet of Dassault Rafales. But these talks foundered in 2011-12, and the UK had been pressing the merits of the four-nation Eurofighter Typhoon as an alternative. Rafale was the original favorite for the UAE deal but the French were out after a failure to agree on contract terms, opening up an opportunity for its European rivals.

The Dubai Airshow in 2013 was abuzz with rumors that the UAE was prepared to order 60 Eurofighter Typhoons, a rumor that the arrival of British Prime Minister David Cameron in UAE, on the eve of the show, did nothing to quell. It all came to nothing. The £6 billion (Dh33.87bn) deal with the UAE to buy up to 60 Typhoons collapsed in December 2013. The planes were supposed to replace the country’s ageing Mirage jets.

By February 2015 the Eurofighter consortium was keen to reopen talks with the UAE in a new bid to sell its Typhoon fighter jets. More than a year ago a deal for up to 60 of its aircraft fell through, the firm’s chief executive said yesterday. "At this point in time there are no more discussions [with the UAE]," said Alberto Gutierrez. "We are ready to offer our proposal. We are in a much better [position] compared to where we were."

The United Arab Emirates confirmed its intention to buy several dozen Su-35 fighters from Russia for its air force, the head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation said 20 June 2017. "I can confirm the UAE intention to buy Su-35. We are talking several dozen planes," Director Dmitry Shugaev told reporters at the Paris Air Show.

A bilateral Air Force exercise between India and United Arab Emirates (UAE) was underway at Al-Dhafra Air Base in UAE from 24 May 16 to 03 June 2016. Ex-Desert Eagle-I with UAE Air Force was held at the same location in September 2008. Su-30 MkI of the Indian Air Force and Mirage 2000-9, F-16 of UAE Air Force participated in the exercise. The exercise was played under multiple simulated scenarios. Exchange sorties for aircrew of both the Air Forces were also planned. Participation in such exercises enabled Indian Air Force to fly against multiple types of platforms. These air combat exercises provide exposure towards mission planning and execution in a simulated high threat combat environment besides building up crew confidence and bonhomie with friendly Air Forces of India and United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates is interested in possible deliveries of Russia's Su-35 multirole air superiority fighters, Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, who led the Russian delegation at the IDEX 2017 exhibition, said 20 February 2017. "Colleagues have expressed interest in the possible supplies of Su-35s, held relevant talks, we will discuss this in more detail," Manturov said.


According to chief executive of Rostec Sergey Chemezov, Russia planned to develop a fifth generation Joint Light Fighter aircraft with the UAE. Chemezov said an initial agreement had been signed and work was expected to start on the "long-term project" as early as next year. Speaking at the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX), he said 20 February 2017 it was too early to put a value on the project. Chemezov said the program could take seven-eight years to develop.

The creation of the fifth-generation fighter jet was one of the parts of the cooperation agreement with the Emirates in the field of military and industrial cooperation. Russia will be represented in the project by the UAC as the leader organization. Sukhoi will contribute its research into fifth generation get, and MiG, its ideas regarding single-engine planes. The aircraft that is set to be developed with the UAE was expected to be a variation of the MiG-29 fighter jet. The "thirty fifth" is a conceptually new fighter employing fifth-generation combat avionics. The program was in its preliminary stages, with the two sides have yet to decide on whether the new fighter would be single-engine or twin engine. However, UAC will be developing a fifth-generation design. This may derive from the prospective/promising light multipurpose front-line aircraft (LMFS) development of JSC "RAC" MiG, a replacement for the MiG-29. Russia had not been able to fund development of the LMFS, and UAE support may help fund the program.

The Russian-Emirati fighter may compete on the cost and accessibility grounds as the Chinese SAC FC-31. The problem the Arab states are facing is that Western Europe will not be able to supply 5th Generation aircraft, only Generation 4.5 aircraft such as Rafale and Typhoon. Thus it would make sense to find a way to obtain non-US 5th Generation fighters. In addition to the "mixed force" argument, they are banned from obtaining the F-35. The UAE needs something stealth to penetrate Iran's defenses.

Russia is discussing with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) the possibility of developing a fifth-generation light front-line fighter, the press service of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) told TASS on 19 February 2019. "Our specialists are constantly discussing the possibilities for strengthening the defense capacity of the United Arab Emirates in almost all areas, including this direction," the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation said. The press service of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation also clarified that currently there are a number of promising areas of bilateral military-technical cooperation between the Russian Federation and the United Arab Emirates, including in the area of air defense.

Pointing to the little-talked about joint programme between Russia and the United Arab Emirates on the creation of a new fifth-gen fighter based on the MiG-29 air superiority fighter, Military Watch Magazine creatively gave this project the name ‘MiG-36’, and speculated that the fighter will integrate many of the same advanced technologies deployed aboard the MiG-35 4++ gen fighter plane. “This programme could resemble the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle Programme which sought to develop the Cold War era F-15 into a stealth fighter, and is likely to inherit the MiG-35’s thrust vectoring engines, powerful sensor suit, low maintenance requirements and access to next-generation munitions such as the R-37M hypersonic missile,” the outlet speculates. "Developing such a platform could potentially provide Russia with an attractive low cost fifth generation fighter for export to other countries - which could prove highly attractive to a number of export clients on four continents. Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation for its part has previously indicated that it is planning to develop such a fighter, and the fighter for the UAE could well be based on the Mikyoan Liogkiy Mnogofunktsionalniy Frontovoi Samolyet (LMFS) (Light Multi-Function Frontal Aircraft)."

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Page last modified: 11-01-2020 15:32:06 ZULU