Air force seeks partner for MALE and tactical programmes, and eyes new trainers and utility helicopters

The United Arab Emirates is poised to select a foreign partner to help it develop its own medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) and tactical unmanned air vehicles.

South Africa’s Denel, EADS and Korea Aerospace Industries, as well as Chinese and Russian companies, have been involved in talks, says air force commander Maj Gen Khalid Bin Abdullah. But the Gulf state will not partner with a major US manufacturer such as Northrop Grumman or Raytheon, he adds. “We are not talking to the USA because it is very sensitive about UAV technology.”

The UAE has been conducting studies into a mini-UAV for several years and Khalid says a prototype is “close to being built and going into service”. The UAE now wants to expand this expertise into larger aircraft, he says.

“We have been using UAVs for 15 years,” Khalid told Flight International. “Today, they have become very important, with battlefield situational awareness being crucial in modern warfare. We have been doing research to develop our own indigenous capability to maintain our own systems within the UAE, but this would have to be in partnership with a country and a manufacturer as we are very limited in resources and have no facilities. We are not interested in having heavy industry.”

Meanwhile, the UAE is also looking to replace its EADS Casa CN-235s with about 18 transports to back an increasing requirement for overseas humanitarian support, disaster relief and peacekeeping. It is evaluating the Alenia C-27J and the EADS Casa C-295.

Other requirements are for an advanced trainer and a new utility helicopter. The UAE air force, which operates 40 BAE Systems Hawk 63s and 100s and 30 Pilatus PC-7s, was for many years viewed as a possible overseas launch customer for EADS’s Mako advanced jet trainer. While the supersonic design is still being considered, the service may now opt for the Pilatus PC-21 or Embraer’s EMB-314 Super Tucano, says Khalid.

“We are committed to qualitative advanced training and need a qualitative modern platform,” he adds. “The Hawk and PC-7 are good aircraft for pilot training, but not for systems. So we are looking for an integrated platform.”

The country is also looking to standardise its armed forces and state-run oil company helicopter fleets to two platforms. The air force is likely to acquire about 16 small utility machines, with Eurocopter’s EC135 the favourite.


Source: Flight International