DUBAI: AEW bidders await UAE Mirage 2000-9 replacement

Dubai
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All three bidders for the UAE's deal for a large airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft now expect the state to delay its award until after an agreement is signed to replace the air force's fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000-9s.

At the same time, the Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye strengthened its perceived status as the UAE's favourite in the competition, which also includes the Boeing 737 airborne early warning and control and the Saab 2000 Erieye.

A picture of the E-2D made a surprise cameo in a presentation on 12 November by Maj Gen Ibrahim Naser al-Alawi, deputy chief of staff of the UAE air force.

The E-2D image was shown by al-Alawi as representing the UAE's future AEW capability. Neither the Boeing 737 or Saab 2000 were included in al-Alawi's briefing.

Northrop officials said al-Alawi's presentation indicates the UAE accepts the US Navy's claim that the E-2D was purpose-built for detecting small missiles, which is also the UAE's primary mission for AEW.

uae air force dassault mirage 2000-9, billypix

 © Billypix

Boeing vice-president of business development Tom Kohler, however, said the 737 platform with Northrop's multi-role electronically scanned array (MESA) radar offers more flexibility, citing the UAE air force's recent deployment of Mirage 2000-9s and Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60s to the Libyan air campaign.

A Northrop official on Boeing's team added that the UAE is no longer solely focused on the Iranian threat.

"The UAE's [operating area] is not just confined to the border regions," said John Johnson, vice-president and general manager of Northrop's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems division.

The UAE has delayed a contract award for the AEW platform for several years. The air force issued a request for proposals in 2006. It is not clear if the UAE intends to issue a new request for proposal, but each of the bidders confirmed that the UAE has received updated cost and technical information over the years.

In 2009, the UAE purchased a Saab 340 Erieye radar system as an interim solution to allow the air force to become familiar with the AEW technology and concept of operations.