Minister: 'heinous' terrorist attacks on UAE show value of investing in defence

Omar Al Olama tells defence conference that countries must be proactive to protect against threats to security

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, addresses the International Defence Industry, Technology and Security Conference in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

The UAE's artificial intelligence minister stressed the importance of the country's investment in its defence capabilities in light of “heinous” terrorist attacks launched against it earlier this year.

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, said it was vital the Emirates did not take its security lightly and saw the value in every dirham it spent on protecting itself from enemies who would use “any means necessary".

He was speaking during the first day of the International Defence Industry, Technology and Security Conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

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In a very short period... we started seeing the importance of defence through some of the heinous acts that some terrorist organisations took against our country
Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications

The two-day event brought together defence officials from more than 30 countries across the globe.

“We understand the future of defence is a future where defence is built on proactive measures rather than reactive measures and the events that take place around us and the world are testimony to that,” he said.

“We also know that in the battlefield, the technology is being used and the restrictions that we put on ourselves are no longer relevant. We know that the enemy might use any and every means necessary.

“In a very short period... we started seeing the importance of defence through some of the heinous acts that some terrorist organisations took against our country.

“We know that, and this is true for the UAE and others, you can't take defence for granted and every single dirham or dollar spent on defending proactively is worth tens if not thousands of dirhams or dollars spent reactively.

“So my advice to all of you is to ensure that we have national capabilities, and let's protect our systems and work together.”

A strike by Yemen's Houthi militia on an Adnoc oil storage plant in Abu Dhabi on January 17 killed three workers and injured six.

A projectile fired at Abu Dhabi International Airport caused a minor fire in an area where construction was taking place, away from the terminal, with no injuries. Missiles fired at the UAE by the Houthis on January 24 and January 31 were intercepted and did not lead to any casualties or damage.

Mohammed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, said technological innovation was key to developing efficient defence programmes.

“Under the current circumstance that the world faces because of the Covid-19 pandemic, attempting to recover from significant economic recession and slow development, national defence forces are committed to strict investment programmes,” said Mr Al Bowardi.

He said an emphasis was being placed on “modernising defence capabilities by allocating substantial resources to technological innovation that develops or regenerates capabilities rather than just additional investments, or replacements of conventional weapons".

UAE can be an 'exporter of technology'

Faisal Al Bannai, executive chairman of the board of directors of Emirati defence firm Edge, said the UAE can be at the forefront of advanced technology development.

“We are moving to a space where the country needs to be an exporter of technology, the country needs to be fully independent of oil and be ready for the last barrel of oil,” he said.

Edge has typified the forward-thinking approach to military defence, with a sharp focus on drone technology.

Last month, the company unveiled swarms of armed aerial drones that can overwhelm enemy ground targets at the Unmanned System Exhibition and Conference (Umex) in Abu Dhabi.

Edge said the aerial fleet could be sent to strike at airfields or armoured convoys.

Mr Al Bannai said Edge had scoured the world for the best talent to further its development.

“We need to be a magnet of talent from around the globe to come here to the UAE and in the last 24 months or so, the amount of talent we grabbed from around the world, frankly, if there was talent sitting in Mars we were there.”

The conference, which is being held at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, concludes on Thursday.

Updated: March 03, 2022, 4:53 AM
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