In addition to its mammoth € 16 billion order for 80 Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft in 2021, the United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF), continues to expand its capabilities. The Dubai Air Show was the right opportunity to summarise the contracts and requirements of the Emirates
In February 2022 the UAE Defence Ministry announced that it was planning to acquire an initial 12 Hongdu L-15 Falcon supersonic advanced jet trainers, with options for a further 36. The Defence Ministry has now confirmed that it has signed a contract with China’s National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) to purchase an initial fleet of 12 L-15s. The Tawazun Council, a UAE defence acquisition organisation said that the US$ 440 million contract included technical support. Some of the L-15s are likely to become the mounts of the UAEAF’s Fursan Al Emarat aerobatic team to replace its ageing Aermacchi MB-339s although no delivery details have yet been released.
On display at the airshow was the turboprop-powered Calidus B-250 turboprop light attack and ISR aircraft, 24 of which were ordered in 2020, as possible replacements for the Joint Aviation Command’s Archangel ground attack and AT208 Air Tractor ISR aircraft. However, the development programme of the Brazilian-designed aircraft to be built in the UAE, has been delayed and again no definite delivery date has been announced.
Five Saab GlobalEye AEW&C aircraft have been ordered by the UAEAF, three of which have been delivered, and is reported that it may be interested in acquiring more in the future as it faces growing threats on its borders.
The UAE Air Force has a requirement to replace its fleet of C-130H/L Hercules and one of the options may the Embraer KC390. At the Airshow, Embraer stressed the outstanding reliability of the KC-390 with the Brazilian Air Force fleet, which has recently passed 10,000 flight hours in operation, and the fact the multi-role Millennium was built as “Civil as possible – and Military as necessary”. In addition to Brazil, the twin-jet tactical transport/tanker aircraft has attracted orders from Portugal and the Netherlands, with Hungary and Austria, and has been selected by Austria and the Czech Republic and the company is confident that sales of the KC-390 in the Middle East and Asia will be announced in the near future.
Photos courtesy Dassault Aviation and D. Oliver