Dubai 09: UAE sets sights on ASTOR

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Raytheon's airborne standoff radar (ASTOR) appears to have attracted serious interest from the United Arab Emirates' weapons buyers.

The UK's principal ground surveillance aircraft has not previously been linked to sales discussions with the UAE military, but signs for a possibly imminent deal were clearly evident around the Dubai air show.

Most tellingly, Ibrahim Naser Alalawi, deputy chief of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence, presented a briefing at the Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference on 14 November. One slide showing UAE military aircraft displayed an aircraft bearing a striking resemblance to the Bombardier Global Express XRS platform, which carries Raytheon's ASTOR sensor.

Raytheon executives also came to the show expressly touting ASTOR as an increasingly popular surveillance system in the Middle East region.

 © APG Photography

Moreover, Raytheon acknowledges it is the process of negotiating a contract with a regional government, although it is currently prohibited from identifying its negotiating partner.

Finally, a US Navy official confirms there have been discussions about a potential ASTOR sale to the UAE.

John Beaulieu, the navy's business development manager for foreign sales of the Northrop Grumman E-2 and C-2 aircraft, says such a deal should have an impact on a possible UAE purchase for airborne early warning and control aircraft.

"I don't think it's an either/or [situation]," Beaulieu says. "I don't see one affecting the [acquisition] priority for the other."

Raytheon's Hencheyn describes the ASTOR's appeal in the region as a border surveillance tool. Raytheon has also joined other systems integrators offering a surveillance version of a Beechcraft King Air 350ER for similar missions.

The ASTOR is equipped with a dual-mode synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indicator.