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UAE signs over $2bn defence deals with state-owned firms

Hamad Al Kaabi/UAE Presidential Court/Handout via REUTERS
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, tours the 2023 International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed defence deals worth AED8.14 billion ($2.22 billion) on the second day of a major industry expo in Abu Dhabi, with the bulk of the business signed with a state-owned firm, a state defence acquisitions agency said.

Abu Dhabi defence firm Edge, whose book value last year was roughly $5 billion, won the biggest deal, an AED4.7 billion contract for its subsidiary Halcon to supply Desert Sting P5 systems, Tawazun Council said in a statement. Halcon also signed an AED1.1 billion deal for its Hunter systems.

UAE pacts with local companies were worth AED7.6 billion, while contracts with international firms totalled just AED543 million, Tawazun said. This occurred despite heavy presence from foreign firms at this year’s International Defence Exhibition (Idex), including major companies from the United States and Europe.

Another Edge subsidiary, ADASI, clinched an AED1.33 billion deal for its Shadow system.

“We had a total of $5 billion worth of booked orders last year,” Edge chairman Faisal Al Bannai told Reuters, adding that roughly $1.4 billion were export orders to roughly nine or 10 countries.

Edge has clients in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe, he said.

Edge’s Halcon is now selling a UAV named Reach-S for $1.1 million, which “is a 70 percent reduced price,” Al Bannai said, adding Edge wants to “disrupt” the industry.

He said the firm is also selling loitering drones for $29,000, versus what he said is an industry average of between $140,000 and $170,000.

“Today, some of the highest-demand products due to what’s happening around the world are loitering drones and UAVs,” Al Bannai said.

Anton Pashynskyi, chief business development officer at Ukraine’s state-owned Ukroboronprom, said the UAE and other Gulf countries could learn from Ukraine’s experience in facing Iran-made drones.

“We are fighting not only with Russian equipment. We are fighting also against Iranian equipment,” he said.

Ukraine had a small presence inside the main hall of Idex, near other European countries. Russia had a much larger presence, though in the naval section of the exhibition.

Ukraine’s appearance at Idex was to seek partners and suppliers to boost its defence industry amid the war with Russia, as well as to maintain ties with existing clients in the UAE and other Gulf countries, Pashynskyi said.