The UAE is developing an increasingly sophisticated defence industry in the Emirates, according to a new report released in the run-up to the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi.
It has done so by heavily investing in local companies and strategic partnerships with multinational defence corporations, the study by the US-UAE Business Council reveals.
“This has begun to bear fruit in the creation of a sizeable local defence industry,” it said.
The Emirates Defence Industries Company and International Golden Group are prime examples, with the UAE increasingly “turning to these domestic companies when awarding lucrative defence contracts”.
The report also notes several significant developments in the country’s defence strategy since it was last published in 2017.
The conflict in Yemen and the large-scale postings of the UAE military overseas have highlighted a greater need for logistics and maintenance equipment for its expeditionary forces, as well as better surveillance and intelligence capabilities.
The UAE’s navy has also been required to expand from home waters to develop a logistics supply chain to its forces in Yemen and elsewhere in the region, including the Horn of Africa.
The study describes the UAE’s “potential willingness to turn to non-western countries for major military systems, such as combat aircraft”.
An example is the country’s reported interest in the Russian Sukhoi-35 fighter. If the deal were to go ahead, the report said that it would be the first time the UAE had turned to a non-western ally to supply combat aircraft.
From a US perspective, the likelihood that the UAE would remain with American suppliers has been boosted by what it calls the Trump administration’s increased willingness to release sophisticated military equipment to allied countries.
That includes the latest F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, sales of which the US government had blocked to Middle East countries.
“This new policy could result in the UAE being able to purchase long-sought US military equipment, such as armed Reaper drones,” the report said.
While the UAE has made purchases from non-western companies, such as Chinese-made drones, it continues to demonstrate a strong preference for US-made defence equipment when it is made available.
Overall, the study says, the two countries enjoy “deep and growing defence and security ties”.
The UAE is the only Arab country to have participated in six coalition actions with the US, including in Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya plus the fight against ISIS.
In return, the US has provided logistics and intelligence support for UAE operations in Yemen, as the Emirates seeks to restore the country’s legitimate government.
The UAE-US relationship has deepened as a result of shared concerns over Iran’s “regional meddling” and the rise of extremism in the region.
Both countries share a common goal of bringing peace and stability to the region, the report stated.