United Arab Emirates defence house EDGE attended the second World Defense Show (WDS) near Riyadh in early February with a broad range of products – and a freshly-arrived new chief executive.
FlightGlobal spoke to Hamad Al Marar at the event in Saudi Arabia on only his fifth day in post – he had previously served as president of EDGE’s highly successful Missiles & Weapons unit, and has been with the company since its establishment in 2019.
Asked about the company’s focus during the 4-8 February event, Al Marar says: “We have received a very nice number of delegations, with clear requirements. What was very pleasing was they weren’t doing a walkthrough: most of the delegations came to see something specific.”
Fast-growing EDGE recorded a revenue of $5 billion and secured contracts worth $2 billion in 2023, with international business accounting for one-third of the latter sum. By contrast, during its first year of activity – less than half a decade ago – sales totalled just $60 million.
“This industry is not easy – especially when you are starting from scratch,” Al Marar says. “But starting from zero also brings opportunity. We had to do things a bit differently.
“We are in a very unique position, because EGDE is multi-national – it has attracted the best talent; different, intelligent minds,” he says, describing the arrival of such talent in the UAE as an “intellectual migration”.
Even at home, EDGE must secure its business in competition with long-established western suppliers of defence equipment. “We need to be on par – the UAE is not going to compromise on its security by buying from us.
A recent example of its successful business strategy saw the UAE in late-January order 200 HT-100 and HT-750 unmanned helicopters, for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and logistics duties. The rotorcraft will be produced in Switzerland by Anavia; a company in which EDGE took a 52% stake last November after surveying the market for mature technology in the unmanned vertical take-off and landing sector.
“All the acquisitions we do are to shorten our [development] time, expand our footprint, and to start today,” Al Marar notes. “There has to be an engineering intellectual property level that you want to have yourself, but the rest can be done in conjunction with many partners – whether we acquire them or not.
“Collaboration is not shameful – actually going alone is not smart. We are grounded in that sense,” he says.
“We are going to continue to develop and deliver solutions that are reliable, that will help protect a country, that will help [us] expand, [and] with the best resources available.”
EDGE also wants to supply its technology for use with other manufacturers’ products. At the Dubai air show last November, it signed agreements with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Hindustan Aeronautics to offer air-launched weapons for potential integration with their respective MQ-9B SkyGuardian and Tejas platforms.
“That to me is a testament that we are there,” Al Marar says. “They have never said that we are good enough to go today, but they saw that we have the potential to take it to the next level.”
Such opportunities hinge on the ability to demonstrate performance with the UAE armed forces, he says, while adding: “You almost have zero chance to sell your weapon if you do not have a platform.
“The UAE air force is a respected air force,” he comments, pointing to the service’s use of Al Tariq-family precision-guided bombs with its Dassault Aviation Mirage 2000-9 combat aircraft.
“And we are on the way to be an official armament to the UAE on the [Dassault] Rafale,” he adds. “For us to take successful steps towards that is another testimony that we are really at par, really coming up with engineering solutions.” Eighty of the French-built fighters are on order for the Gulf nation, for delivery from later this decade.
EDGE’s large exhibit at the biennial WDS event featured models of many of its aerospace products, including a conceptual ‘loyal wingman’-type unmanned platform named Jeniah.
“We are all trying to thrive in a domain where autonomous systems are something of the future. We have to prepare now.” Related focus areas include electronic warfare, and the development of more-precise weapons, he says. “If you do not ride this wave today, you are never going to be on it,” he adds, while noting: “EDGE is an extremely good platform to develop these technologies.”
Also at the show, EDGE and Turkish Aerospace signed a memorandum of understanding “to work together on several aerospace-specific initiatives”. These include activities in the intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance sector.
“The agreement represents a joint commitment to integrate EDGE’s advanced payloads and sensors to Turkish Aerospace’s products,” the UAE company says. “It also includes the potential for technology transfer, integration, and manufacturing.”