News / Middle East

UAE Leads Gulf Arab Push to Build Up Domestic Defense Industry

Visitors walk past a stand for Italian defence group Finmeccanica during the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, February 19, 2013. Visitors walk past a stand for Italian defence group Finmeccanica during the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, February 19, 2013.
x
Visitors walk past a stand for Italian defence group Finmeccanica during the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, February 19, 2013.
Visitors walk past a stand for Italian defence group Finmeccanica during the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, February 19, 2013.
Reuters
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is at the forefront of a regional push to build up domestic defense manufacturing capability to reduce reliance on imports that come with too many strings attached, analysts say.

Wary of non-Arab adversary Iran in a competition for  regional predominance, and seeing an increased security threat from Islamist militants, Gulf Arab monarchies have some of the fastest growing military budgets in the world.

The UAE has established a small defense industry that includes maritime security and defense-related services such as maintenance and repairs over the past two decades.

Now, the UAE has begun to pursue more sophisticated, high-tech capabilities in a strategy combining joint ventures with foreign firms and a programme in which deals commit companies to transfer technology and skills to the Emirates.

"The point of the UAE having an indigenous defense industry  is to become self-sufficient and break away from the stranglehold of particular countries," said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

"The United States has some of the most advanced technology capabilities but because of technology transfer restrictions to other countries, the UAE wants to find solutions to those problems from elsewhere."

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are among several states, according  to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, that have asked U.S. officials to buy armed drones but which have been rebuffed. The Gulf Arab state this week awarded a contract to buy an unarmed version of a Predator drone from U.S. firm General Atomics.

"The aim is both to be defense-capable and part of the diversification of the economy," UAE military spokesman Obeid al-Ketbi told a news conference at the biennial International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi.

"We are working hard through joint ventures on this strategy of defense capabilities and industry."

The UAE is forecast to spend up to $12.9 billion per year on defense over the next three years, compared with $9.3 billion in 2011, said David Reeths, director of aerospace and defense consulting for Europe, Middle East and Africa at IHS Jane's.

Funded from huge oil and gas revenues, Gulf Arab states are on pace for an overall 4.6 percent yearly growth in defense spending over the next few years, Reeths said.

In contrast, the global annual rate is forecast at 1.3  percent over the same period. China's defense budget is expected to rise 9 percent in the same time.

High Tech, Small Scale

High-tech and small scale is the best way forward for the UAE's local defense manufacturing, according to Ali al-Dhaheri, general designer at the privately-owned, Abu Dhabi-based ADCOM Systems, which makes and exports drones.

"We don't care about larger-scale industry, the country is small. We don't want to fool ourselves. We are small and all our manufacturing will probably be hi-tech and small-scale. And services will also be part of it."

A recent joint venture between Abu Dhabi government-owned Tawazun and Sweden's Saab AB to build advanced radar systems in the UAE highlights the strategy.

"That's really a very high-technology capability so that's a first for the UAE," Reeths said.

The UAE already has several joint venture defence deals with global players including Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Abu Dhabi's investment vehicle Mubadala is expanding on the services side of the sector, running seven local companies in defence-related operations such as maintenance and repairs.

On Tuesday, Ketbi announced that over 2 billion dirhams  ($544.5 million) worth of deals had been awarded with Mubadala's Advanced Military Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Centre (AMMROC, winning a 1.8 billion dirham aircraft maintenance contract.)

Analysts and industry players said Gulf Arab countries would need to coordinate if they wanted their region to develop a broad industrial defence base. But mistrust and rivalry among Gulf states was preventing any such coordination, Karasik said, and for now the UAE was leading the pack.

"In the short term I don't see unity or alignment in the defense industry [in the Gulf], but I do see a lot of countries mimicking the UAE,'' he said. "You see Saudi trying to do this, and also Oman and Kuwait but it's on a much smaller scale. They don't have the Mubadalas and Tawazuns."

ADCOM's Dhaheri agreed that any coordination among the Gulf states - which maintain a loose economic and political bloc as well as a Gulf defence pact - on this front was a long way off.

"We would love to see that but given the turbulence in the region we have to be realistic. I don't think we are ready yet for integration."

You May Like

Video British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid