The UAE military industry is one of the most dynamically developing branches of the national economy. The country’s leadership is paying close attention to the development of the military-industrial complex, expanding the range of its products in order to increase the level of self-sufficiency of the national armed forces for certain types of weapons and military equipment. To this end, modern technologies are acquired from the world’s leading manufacturers of military products, and joint ventures are being created in the UAE and abroad. The process of its own military R & D is being established.
The creation of a national military-industrial base takes place with the direct participation and full support of the state and is one of the most important directions of diversification of the national economy. We also note the wide participation of local private capital in the creation of defense enterprises. In the military industry, the process of “UAEzation” of personnel is proceeding at an accelerated pace. The range of products is steadily expanding.
Today, the military industrial complex of the United Arab Emirates has enterprises of the aviation, shipbuilding, armored, artillery and rifle, ammunition and radio-electronic industries. At the same time, military production in the country is mainly a licensed assembly of various types of foreign (mostly Western) weapons and military equipment. There are also large service centers for the maintenance, repair and modernization of weapons and equipment acquired abroad. Most of the defense industry enterprises are located in industrial zones in the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
In December 2014, the creation of the Emirates Defense Industry Company (EDIC) was announced, which included three unions of the national military industrial complex: the state-owned company «Mubadala Development«, the «Tawazun» holding and the «Emirates Advanced» Investment Group, a total of 16 enterprises with employed 10 thousand people. The largest in EDIC is «Mubadala Development» (MD). Enterprises of the company produce various types of products, both military and civil. Belonging to the state, the MD operates in many ways as a private company, working closely with foreign and local commercial firms, as well as investing in the civilian sector of the aerospace industry, energy, infrastructure, and the service sector in addition to defense projects.
The aviation industry enterprises are mainly engaged in the repair and maintenance of aircraft, helicopters and individual components of aircraft, which are in service with the UAE Air Force and other Arabian monarchies (F-16 and «Mirage» 2000-9 fighters, C-130 and CN-235 military transport aircraft , light aircraft «King Air-350» and F-110, combat (AN-64 «Apache») and multi-purpose («Bell» and «Puma») helicopters). The UAE has made significant progress in the creation and production of various types of drones, as well as avionics, navigation systems, flight control and airborne collision avoidance, and other aviation equipment. The complex of test flights and test firing of a new light attack helicopter 407MRH was successfully completed. In 2017, an agreement was reached with Russia to jointly develop a fifth-generation lightweight fighter. According to media reports, the UAE is buying new technologies in the aerospace industry in Israel. In general, the task was set to turn the Emirates into a major manufacturer of civil and military aircraft of world level.
Military shipbuilding is one of the most developed branches of the local military industrial complex. For the national naval forces, as well as for export, construction, repair and partial modernization of missile boats, small landing ships, high-speed amphibious boats, assault landing boats, high-speed patrol boats, remote-controlled and multi-purpose boats and auxiliary vessels are being conducted. With technical assistance from Western countries, production of underwater vehicles for the command of special operations forces of the UAE Armed Forces has been established. The industry leader is «Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding» company. Its basic production facilities allow for a wide range of repairs and upgrades for certain types of ships and vessels. The main consumer of the company’s products are the UAE Navy.
Armored industry enterprises produce multi-purpose armored vehicles “Nimr” of various modifications, armored personnel carriers, modular multi-purpose vehicles with mine protection, tank conveyors, evacuation tractors, small-sized vehicles for special forces. Some samples of light armored vehicles are exported to a number of countries in Asia and Africa. Repair and partial modernization of the automotive and armored vehicles are being conducted. The country plans to create large regional service centers for servicing various types of armored vehicles.
Artillery and rifle industry. The leading company in the industry is «Caracal International«. With the assistance of Germany, a 9-mm-size «Caracal» pistol factory was built in the Emirates. At the same time, some parts for assembling weapons are purchased in Europe. Initially, the production capacity of the enterprise was designed for the manufacture of 30 thousand pistols a year, but it is planned to bring them up to 50 thousand pieces. The company also produces 9-mm semi-automatic carbines “Caracal CC10”, 7.62-mm sniper rifles “Caracal CSR”, light machine guns and small-caliber weapons. «Caracal» pistols are exported to Arab countries. Emirati designers with the participation of foreign contractors have created a 122-mm multiple launch rocket system with a firing range of 16 — 40 km. A mobile coastal anti-ship missile system was also developed with a range of up to 35 km. The country is repairing and upgrading some foreign artillery systems, which are in service with the national army.
The ammunition industry is developing dynamically. The largest local companies in this industry are «Burkan Munitions Systems» and «Caracal Light Ammunitions«. With the assistance of the German company «Rheinmetall Munitions Systems», in the Emirates, a plant was built to manufacture ammunition according to NATO standards for small arms, artillery systems of ground forces and naval forces, as well as air bombs. An ecologically clean enterprise has been created at the plant for the thermal destruction of decommissioned ammunition and explosives. «C4 Advanced Solutions» company is engaged in the development of high-tech ammunition. The French company “Nexter Systems” plans to transfer to the Emirates side the technology for producing 120-mm ammunition for «Leclerc» tanks, which form the basis of the UAE’s armored forces. The local company «Emirates Advanced Investment» and the American Corporation «Raytheon» signed an agreement on joint development, technology transfer and production of 70-mm laser-guided missiles «Talon». Missiles will be made in the country completely or assembled from American components.
The radio-electronic industry produces in limited quantities various systems and equipment for military use, including closed satellite communications systems, night vision devices, and others. With Italy, an agreement was reached on the joint production of military electronics (electronic warfare equipment, equipment for the Navy and rear, etc.). The firm «Yahsat» has signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense of the country to provide the military with space communications. It is believed that the creation of a satellite communications system will allow UAE Armed Forces to conduct network-centric operations.
The UAE military industry is gradually increasing its presence in the global arms market. As the domestic market becomes saturated with defense products, this trend will increase.
As it seems, the leadership of the UAE will continue to expand the capabilities of the national military industrial complex, the creation of certain types of high-tech production. At the same time, the main obstacles to the development of the military industry, the development and production of their own weapons and military equipment are the weak overall industrial base of the country, the insufficient level of development of science and education (especially technical), the lack of trained personnel, primarily able to work on modern high technologies, lack of sufficient experience in the organization of military R & D. As a result, we cannot talk about creating a full-fledged national military industrial complex in the UAE, and for the foreseeable future, the local military industry will continue to be based on a licensed assembly of certain types of foreign equipment, which will determine the continued strong dependence of the country on foreign suppliers.
Institute of the Middle East.
December 31, 2018. On changes in the military-political situation in the Middle East and North Africa (December 24 — 30, 2018). Annex.