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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 4 March 2021

Idex 2021: Canada's CAE in talks with Middle East customers on the digital future of training

The company expects more demand from Middle East customers seeking local training amid the pandemic

The CAE stand at Idex 2021. The company provides pilot training and analyses data to improve pilot performance. Victor Besa / The National. 
The CAE stand at Idex 2021. The company provides pilot training and analyses data to improve pilot performance. Victor Besa / The National. 

Canada’s CAE said the Covid-19 pandemic is driving a shift in demand for digital training platforms by Middle East customers.

Thibaut Trancart, vice president and managing director of CAE Defence and Security in the Middle East, said requirements were changing from requests for flight training to mission training, data integration and full situational awareness.

He said the changes would provide a more complete picture of combat situations.

“The world is changing and the requirement from our customer is changing from a pure operating point of view to a mission point of view because the world is moving to a more digital environment with data fusion,” said Mr Trancart.

“We are extremely well-positioned in the market and in the Middle East, in particular, because we have got all the ingredients of this recipe to success and the market is definitely there.”

The Montreal-based pilot-training company said it intends to incorporate the artificial intelligence capabilities of Gulf partners into its own products.

One way of doing this could be through the local development of algorithms that could be used on its digital platforms.

CAE is developing a digital platform with easier access to full situational awareness such as planning, analysis and decision-making for urban security and law and defence enforcement through a national synthetic environment called a “digital twin”.

The company is “optimistic” about its discussions in the Middle East but it is yet to finalise any deal, he said.

CAE is the world’s largest civil aviation training company and also operates defence, security and healthcare units.

Mr Trancart said the Middle East market looks “pretty promising” for CAE this year.

The company is working to develop joint ventures in Saudi Arabia and Qatar that will provide mission training and operational support for local air forces and navies, he said.

The UAE market is “definitely booming” and the company expects to clinch a bigger share of the training business when a US deal to sell Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets to the country is completed.

“We are expecting quite a lot of steps on the new platforms that the airforce is requiring,” said Mr Trancart.

“For us, that means more training, more simulators and a stronger presence.”

The Biden administration is currently reviewing the sale.

Defence spending by Gulf countries grew by 5.4 per cent to $100bn last year, up from $94.9bn in 2019, according to defence intelligence specialist Janes.

Gulf expenditure on defence is expected to fall by 9.4 per cent this year, before dropping to $89.4bn in 2022 because of lower oil prices and Covid-19, Janes said.

Mr Trancart said that while there were forecasts of lower defence spending in the region, talks at Idex paint a different picture.

“I am at Idex now and I can feel and see and hear an intense level of discussions, maybe as if we don’t have a pandemic,” he said.

“Maybe [it is] because I am an optimist, but when I see the dimension of our pipeline and intensity of discussions we are having, as far as the Middle East is concerned, we are not as pessimistic as the forecasts.”

While there is still a budget for defence spending, there is a “reshuffle of priorities” by regional buyers as they focus on mission support and operations, he said.

More Middle East customers now require pilot training and flight-simulation activities to be done locally, instead of abroad, because of the pandemic, he said.

“There is strong and growing demand for defence pilot training. Some of the customers were trained in centres that are abroad and, with the pandemic, people want to have the training centre in their countries,” he said.

“That will drive quite a huge amount of demand for flight simulators to be locally based. We are getting requests from most of the Middle Eastern countries because it is a way to get some sovereignty to train your pilot in your own country.”

In addition, the upcoming Dubai Expo and the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar are expected to fuel demand for security training, mission support and law enforcement using digital immersion, he said.

“The Middle East is a strong contributor [to company earnings] on one hand and has strong market growth potential based on digital immersion,” Mr Trancart said.

Updated: February 24, 2021 02:27 AM

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