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Emirati Air Force & Defence Command Modernization

Since 1980s a combination of regional instability and high oil prices has resulted in an ambitious re-equipment and modernization of the UAE Air Force, with its scope being to reach a level of capability at highest NATO standards. Some of the US-Gulf state defense cooperation that had begun during the Clinton Administration but since languished as the U.S. focused on the post-September 11, 2001 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In a December 8, 2007 speech in Bahrain, Secretary Gates said the "Gulf Security Dialogue" has six key pillars including arms sales is to improve Gulf state missile defense capabilities, for example by sales of the upgraded Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3), as well as to improve border and maritime security equipment through of littoral combatships, radar systems, and communications gear. The initial sales, including PAC-3 related sales to UAE and Kuwait and Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to Saudi Arabia and UAE, were notified to Congress in December 2007 and January 2008. A sale to UAE of the very advanced Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) had also been notified.

By 2007 the UAE had expressed interest in purchasing the following potentially offensive and defensive weapons systems (in estimated order of UAE priority):

  1. Armed Predator B (note MTCR issues);
  2. THAAD/ER-THAAD (est. case value $1.5-3.9 billion), and investment in the development of ER-THAAD (investment amounts as high as $1 billion have been mentioned);
  3. SLAMRAAM (to upgrade/replace HAWK missiles) (est. case value $400-700 million);
  4. Patriot PAC3/GEM-T (est. case value $5.5 billion);
  5. AVENGER/STINGER missiles vehicle/ship (mounted) (est. case value $200-300 million);
  6. Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) E2-C Hawkeye (lease of 3 aircraft for 5 years as an interim fix until AEW&C platform delivered)(est. case value $150-200 million);
  7. AEW&C platform (Boeing "Wedgetail" or Northrop-Grumman E2-D "Hawkeye") (est. case value $1.5-2.0 billion for aircraft plus a 20 year follow on support contract est. at $1 billion);
  8. Maritime surveillance aircraft (est. case value $100-200 million); and
  9. Command and control upgrades (SEW, CENTRIX, LINK 11/16, GCCS-M) (est. case value depends on which platforms LINK 11/16 are integrated on, such as F-16 block 60s, AEW&C, etc.).

Trainer Aircraft

The UAE was expected as of 2001 to upgrade its 20 BAE Systems Hawk Mk63 and 18 Hawk Mk102 trainers to a common standard as well as acquire new aircraft. Germany has offered to share development of an advanced trainer/light combat aircraft (LCA) with the UAE, focussing on the AT-2000 Mako, which could enter production in 2007 and be operational by 2010. Seeking to break into the lucrative Gulf market, the German sales push included an October 1999 offer of 30 ex-Luftwaffe Alpha Jets, a move that could thwart further Hawk sales.

The UAE needs trainers to prepare pilots for its advanced fighter jets, such as the Dassault Mirage and the F-16. The UAE needs to replace its ageing Hawk trainers from BAE Systems, which are due to be phased out by 2015. BAE's latest version of the Hawk was eliminated from the selection process in 2007, leaving only the Italian and Korean entries. The Golden Eagle reportedly costs between $13.5 million and $17m each, compared with the M-346 at between $12.5m and $13.5m. Alenia Aermacchi, part of the Finmeccanica group, was selected in February 2009 to provide 48 of its M-346 trainer to the UAE Air Force, edging out Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and its T-50 Golden Eagle. But after a year of negotiations, by March 2010 the two sides had not signed a contract, fuelling speculation that the deal was in jeopardy. This aircraft is the most Advanced/Lead-In Fighter Trainer optimised for the role and can be proposed in operational variants for both Air Defence and Ground Attack roles. The M-346 offers very high levels of performance and manoeuvrability for the best cost-effective solutions. Moreover, the MB-339 of Alenia Aermacchi are operated today by the UAE Air Force in the PAN version (National Aerobatic Team Al Fursan).

AEW Airborne Early Warning Aircraft

On 4 September 2002, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the United Arab Emirates of refurbished/upgraded E-2C aircraft to the E-2C HAWKEYE 2000 as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $400 million. The Government of the United Arab Emirates requested a possible sale of 5 refurbished/upgraded E-2C aircraft to the E-2C HAWKEYE 2000, 5 AN/APS-145 radars, 5 OE-335/A antenna groups, 10 T56-A-425 engines, spare and repairs parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, technical data and publications, tactical software and software laboratory, system software development and installation, testing of new system modifications, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics services and other related elements of program support. This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates needs the E-2C aircraft to develop an effective air defense network for their naval forces and provide an Airborne Early Warning (AEW) surveillance and enhanced command, control, and communications capability. UAE will have no difficulty absorbing the E-2C aircraft into its armed forces.

Delivery of the first aircraft was scheduled for first quarter 2006, the last by first quarter 2008. The aircraft are ex-US Navy E-2Cs previously stored at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona but had been moved to undergo extensive refurbishment to Hawkeye 2000 standard.

On December 4, 2007 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the United Arab Emirates of upgrades and refurbishments of E-2C aircraft as well as associated equipment and services. The Government of the United Arab Emirates has requested a possible sale of upgrades and refurbishment for three (3) used, excess defense articles (EDA) E-2C Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft with radar and antennae. These upgrades/refurbishments include E-2C Group II Navigation Upgrade configuration, 8 T56-A-427 Turbo Shaft engines, Phased Maintenance Inspection, spare and repairs parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, technical data and publications, tactical software and software laboratory, system software development and installation, testing of new system modifications, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related support elements. The estimated cost is $437 million.

As of 2013, the UAE had not bought any Hawkeyes.

As of November 2007 the UAE Air Force was reported to be on the verge of making a decision regarding its key airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C) requirement. The choice followed an extensive analysis of the forces operational needs and the issue of a highly detailed request for information (RFI) in 2006. Before the previous Dubai Air Show the UAE Air Force and Air Defense had signaled its serious intentions to acquire an airborne early warning and control system. Following a requirements analysis that covered a broad range of AEW solutions, including ground-based and aerostats, an RFI went out to industry in late 2006. Although the contents of the RFI (and the responses) remained classified, indications suggest a very detailed document. The three competitors were all presenting their AEW&C products at the show: Boeing, with a 737AEW&C in the static park; Northrop Grumman, with a Hawkeye visiting from the USS Enterprise; and Saab, with an Erieye system presentation at its stand in the West Hall.

At the Dubai air show in 2009 it was announced that the AFAD would acquire two ex-Swedish air force Saab 340 AEW aircraft equipped with the Erieye radar. In the case of the UAE, the Saab 2000 proved the best solution because the turboprop airliner platform offers good field performance in hot conditions. Saab delivered the first of the 340s in 2010, and the second arrived in 2011. In Novemer 2015 the United Arab Emirates ordered two new airborne Swing Role Surveillance System (SRSS) with Swedish Saab Defence. The order worth USD 1.27 billion would see the SAAB Erieye boom radar mounted on a pair of Bombardier Global 6000 business jets. The new SRSS is capable of simultaneous detection and tracking of multiple targets in the air, on land and at sea. It is the latest evolution of the Erieye system that incorporates Saabs many decades of radar capabilities across all domains.

On 10 November 2015 defense and security company Saab signed a contract with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to expand and enhance the Emirates airborne surveillance capabilities. Saab would deliver a new airborne Swing Role Surveillance System (SRSS) incorporating a new version of the Saab Erieye radar system. The order value amounted to approximately USD1.27 billion. The new SRSS for the UAE used the Global 6000 aircraft from Bombardier as a platform. The Swing Role Surveillance System is capable of simultaneous detection and tracking of multiple targets in the air, on land and at sea. It is the latest evolution of the Erieye system that incorporates Saabs many decades of radar capabilities across all domains.

Transport Aircraft

A military version of the Airbus A330 passenger airliner, the Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), is designed as both a transport and an air-to-air refuelling aircraft. Having ordered three MRTT planes in early 2008, the UAE will receive the first of them in December 2011.

Boeing said 06 January 2010 that it had won a contract from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for six C-17 military aircraft, making the UAE the second Middle Eastern nation to order the airlifter. UAE will take delivery of four C-17s in 2011 and two in 2012 in the deal, whose "fi nancial terms are not being disclosed," Boeing and the UAE said in a joint statement. The C-17 Globemaster III advanced airlifter can carry large combat equipment and troops or humanitarian aid across international distances to small "austere" airfi elds anywhere in the world, the company said.

Besides Israel and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the largest importers of defense articles and services in the Middle East. Both nations had been spending heavily on defense since the Gulf crises of the 1990s. The UAE is the fi rst and only Arab country in the Middle East to partner with the U.S. defense industry (Northrop Grumman) by investing $500 million to develop new, Active Electronically Scan Array (AESA) radar for F-16 fighters. Any future sales would provide royalty revenue for the kingdom.

COIN

The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to buy 24 new Brazilian turboprop attack aircraft Super Tucano. This was reported by the newspaper National 16 January 2015. The aircraft will be used in combat operations against the terrorist organizations in the region. "One of the main advantages of this aircraft is the ability to operate for long periods without refueling at a considerable distance from the base, - said the American expert Daniel Magarian. - It performed well in terms of attacking ground targets from low altitudes." United Arab Emirates play an active role in the Washington-led coalition against the terrorist group "Islamic state" in Iraq and Syria. UAE Air Force regularly conduct military operations against extremists on Iraqi territory.



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