The Ministry of Defence plans to sign a contract to buy 12 military fighter jets from China, with the option to purchase 36 more at a later date.
In a major deal, the ministry confirmed it was in talks to secure the L-15 Falcon - described as a training and light attack aircraft - from China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC).
Tareq Al Hosani, chief executive of Tawazun Economic Council, said the deal is part of continuing efforts to diversify and modernise capabilities of the Air Force and units of the armed forces.
“We have reached the final stage in our talks with the Chinese side. The final contract will be signed soon,” he said in a statement.
“We trust that CATIC has advanced technology that enjoys global competitive advantages.”
No value of the deal was released but China sells the twin-seat L-15 Falcon for $10 million to $15 million per unit, industry reports said.
That would make the jet, which debuted at the Dubai Airshow in 2021, significantly cheaper than many fighters produced by the United States or Europe. One industry journal said the aircraft is regarded as versatile and "best in its class".
The MoD and Tawazun statement did not state which version of the L-15 it was looking to acquire.
First introduced in 2006, a more recent version called the L-15B has a weapons payload of four tonnes, with the instructor's rear seat turned into a weapons systems officer's seat to manage guided weapons.
The L-15 designation applies to export versions of the jet, which is called the Hongdu JL-10 in China.
Zambia's air force uses the L-15 and Uruguay and Venezuela have reportedly expressed an interest in the aircraft.
Tawazun, which manages the acquisitions and contracts of the UAE Armed Forces and Abu Dhabi Police, will work with strategic partners to develop the UAE’s defence capabilities, news agency Wam reported.