Inside EDGE – Remaya X-Range developing offshore Abu Dhabi

Paolo Valpolini

In late 2023, at the Dubai Air Show, EDGE announced the creation of the X-Range, an international defence, aerospace and commercial products testing, evaluation and training ground facility, which according to the company is the first of its kind and size in the Gulf region. The EDGE entity that is developing this new facility is Remaya, a company created in 2009 to build sports firing ranges in the UAE. Visiting Remaya, which is now part of EDGE Trading & Mission Support cluster, allowed EDR On-Line to get a deeper insight in the X-Range

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Born with a wholly different task, in 2015 Remaya shifted from sports shooting to the development of live firing ranges for military and law enforcement customers. It then started creating new shooting ranges or to renovate existing ones. In 2022 the company started looking for an area where creating a comprehensive facility capable to host defence the widest possible range equipment testing as well as training of military units. Late that same year the Abu Al Abyad island was identified, located 8 km offshore along the coast south-west of Abu Dhabi, around 70 km from town. The island already hosted a 3,850 metres long and 60 metres wide runway, with some airport facilities, with roads allowing easy movements across the 350 km2 area.

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The availability of an area allowing flying up to 3,000 ft without need of clearance from local aviation authorities led to an immediate use of the Abu Al Abyad range by multiple UAS manufacturers to test their products. To fly at higher altitudes, up to 40,000 ft, a NOTAM is required. Arena testing of explosive warheads was also conducted.

Access to the island was initially done by ferry, however one of the first infrastructural works done by Remaya was to build a bridge to allow easy transport of materiel and personnel to its X-Range, a key factor for ensuring the development of the facility, Haitham Awinat, Chief Executive Officer of Remaya explained.

Activities officially started on September 4th, 2023, the full operational capability to be reached by late 2025. Until now activities are limited to UAE customers, however Remaya officials are looking to host first international customers in Q3 2024, the X-Range having attracted a lot of interest being the only commercial facility of that kind in the region.

“One of the strong selling points is definitely the number of operating days, availability being favoured by weather conditions in the area. Moreover, customers looking for heat, dust and humidity can find perfect conditions on the island, which also offers the salinity element if needed,” Haitham Awinat, underlined. An RF network ensures data link allowing to download in real time test data and to ensure communications, while electro/optical tracking, tracking radar and beam-forming digital antenna for collection of detailed and accurate performance data have been installed, data security being ensured to guaranteed that data are fed only in customers collecting systems. The known and controlled radiofrequency environment allows for testing of all air electronic components and systems. The X-Range is being developed as a “smart” infrastructure, in order to reduce manpower to a minimum, the final working force when the facility will be fully developed being forecasted at around 60 personnel.

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The range is being equipped with several technologies developed within the EDGE group, such as the smart booking system that allows optimising activities. Among the further developments planned, Remaya will build a new runway dedicated to UAS, as well some VTOL landing pads, to allow full exploitation of the main runway, both for logistic and operational purposes.

Currently airport infrastructures are being used as warehouses, however a construction plan has been drafted that will bring in new buildings around the runway to host Remaya assets as well as customers equipment.

The company foresees international customers coming to the X-Range for extended period of time when complex testing activities will be conducted, up to six months, hence a logistic base should be built to host customers’ personnel, who will, by the way, spend off-work time in a beautiful scenario.

One of the main activities foreseen is the testing of air-to-ground munitions, hence having multiple strips will allow full exploitation of the range. For land vehicles, a 30 km test track was purposely built, which includes all obstacles foreseen by NATO STANAGs. Direct fire ranges will also allow firepower tests, from small to large calibre weapons, the X-Range being equipped with all measurement equipment. This is also true for short range missiles, such as antitank ones, as well as for rocket launchers. Also, helicopters can use firearms and missiles for testing purposes. The range build-up also includes an in-house data analysis capability, while currently customers have to conduct trials counting on their own capabilities. This development will be very helpful, especially when dealing with small and medium enterprises that do not have their own mobile testing equipment. Next generation weapons, such as direct energy ones, can also be tested on the island.

EDR On-Line understood that only large calibre artillery live firing will not be carried out at the Remaya X-Range, safety area being not sufficient for this kind of activity. What was made clear is that environmental constraints do not allow anything falling in the sea along the island coast, while all unexploded ordnance has to be cleared within 24 hours by UAE EOD teams. Two explosive areas are available, both for static as well as for dynamic testing.

Beside testing activities, the Remaya X-Range is also being equipped to host military training activities; “A village exists on the island, which is being transformed into a training area for live firing, as well as for dry fire simulated activities,” the CEO said. The availability of beaches will allow conducting landing exercises, beside testing amphibious vehicles capabilities.

Image courtesy EDGE