Calidus, UAE’s privately-held defence company worth Dh2 billion, is seeking contracts for its light attack aircraft after testing is completed amid interest from potential clients in the Middle East and Africa.
The B-250 prototype, which was first flown in the Dubai Air Show in 2017, is being tested over Al Ain and will be 20 per cent cheaper than products by competitors, said Abdulla Al Hashmi, senior vice president for business development. He declined to disclose the size of investments in the company’s products, which also include an infantry fighting vehicle that will be tested this summer. He was speaking during the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex) taking place in Abu Dhabi this week.
“We do the design and the assembly [of the light attack aircraft] here,” said Mr Al Hashmi. “We may do some manufacturing of composites with Strata or other local companies. Weapons integration and system integration will be done here.”
Strata, the Al Ain-based company owned by strategic investment firm Mubadala Investment Company, produces composite plane parts for Airbus and Boeing.
The UAE is beefing up its local military and defence industry as part of plans to diversify its income away from oil. Tawazun Economic Council, the state body tasked with developing a local defence industry, has set up a Dh2.5bn fund to help provide flexible financing to companies in the Emirates.
Calidus is setting up a facility in Al Ain to assemble the aircraft, which uses components from a number of international suppliers, including Canadian engine makers Pratt & Whitney and US military communication equipment provider L3 Technologies.
“We can deliver the first aircraft in two years from signing a contract. Then we can deliver two aircraft per month,” Mr Al Hashmi said.
The company expects to break even three to four years after signing its first contract, he added.
Calidus is talking with France’s Dassault Aviation, as part of Tawazun’s offset programme for technology transfer from international defence companies, to help it develop the light attack aircraft.
“We may look to use some offset programme for the further development of the aircraft if we find a good partner,” said Mr Al Hashmi.
“We would like to have their [Dassault] involvement in testing. We go through a lot of testing during manufacturing.”