UAE defence imports to double to $3bn by 2015

The country was ranked second, behind Saudi Arabia, in the Middle East as a top importer in the defence market.

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ABU DHABI // The UAE is expected to more than double spending on military imports by 2015, according to a study released on Thursday.

The country was ranked the second-biggest defence importer in the Middle East, behind Saudi Arabia, according to the Balance of Trade Study, conducted by the UK-based IHS Jane’s, an intelligence provider to militaries, government, intelligence agencies and industries.

“Data shows that the UAE is forecast to be the [world’s] number three defence importer by 2015,” said Ben Moores, a senior analyst at the military intelligence provider.

“Based on current orders by 2015, the UAE will be importing less than Iraq. This could change as this is only based on existing orders to date. The defence market is cyclical so it’s not a sign of a long-term decline.

“Countries in the region are importing more than they ever have, and that trend shows no signs of slowing down. Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE together imported more than western Europe as a whole – US$9.3 billion (Dh34.2bn) compared with $8.7bn.”

Mr Moores said the UAE’s import programme was also expected to more than double.

“By 2015, imports are forecast to total $3.13bn, up from a 2009 total of $1.4bn,” he said. “Looking towards 2023 in terms of programmes awarded, the UAE is interested in the F-35 [multi-role fighter jet].”

Deliveries would not start until 2020.

Mr Moores said the terminal high altitude air defence system (Thaad) would start next year.

“It’s a very capable, top-notch ballistic missile system,” he said. “That’ll cost about $2bn just to acquire the system. It doesn’t include support or spares, so it’s just the missile without the radar.”

The radar, he said, would come in later and would cost the UAE $1.6bn.

“The delivery started last year and it will probably go on for another 10 years,” he said.

Another acquisition is the AN/TPY-2 radar.

“It’s a huge radar with very large, fast and accurate missiles,” Mr Moores said. “If they see a missile coming towards them, they can engage it at very high altitude, so it’s a very capable system.”

He said deliveries of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, a strategic military transport aircraft, have just been completed, costing $1.2bn for the platform alone.

The UAE is also buying armoured vehicles and a radar-based satellite.

The news comes shortly after the announcement that the UAE had almost doubled its budget for homeland security from $5.5bn to $10bn in the next decade, according to the US department of commerce’s international trade administration.

Spending on airport security will reach $57.7 million by 2015, the study forecast.

“So far, airport security technologies used in the UAE are a good step forward,” said Johan Obdola, the president of the International Organisation for Security and Intelligence.

“If you combine and implement the latest technologies to create a data management, information sharing and immigration mobility, it is absolutely essential.”

Mr Obdola said most of the funds should be geared towards the human aspect of security.

“The police in Abu Dhabi and Dubai really have to focus on training,” he said. “They should create an elite force of police officers, not just for the airports, seaports and borders, but to establish an integrated intelligence centre.

“Investment in human training, capacity and human intelligence complementing the latest technologies is absolutely the best way to address the situation.

“They have very good technologies set up in airports, so now we really need to focus more on the human operational side.”