Sunday, November 13, 2011

UAE Also Eyeing Typhoon in Combat Aircraft Competition

DUBAI - The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has asked Britain to bid the Eurofighter Typhoon for its combat aircraft fleet competition, a British government spokesman said, dealing a blow to French efforts to sell the Rafale to the Gulf state.
"We have received the request for proposal for the Eurofighter Typhoon," an official from the U.K. Defense & Security Organization said Nov. 13 on the opening day of the Dubai Airshow. "We're working on it."
No figures were immediately available for the British bid.
The U.K. Minister for International Security Strategy, Gerald Howarth, was attending the exhibition as part of London's official support to place the Eurofighter in the UAE.
The British Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Stephen Dalton, was also in Dubai, flying the flag for the Royal Air Force, which flew two Eurofighters to the show. A Eurofighter was scheduled to fly in the daily display, as was the Rafale.
Dassault Aviation declined comment.
French Air Force officers heard of the Eurofighter news on Nov. 11, through a London embassy attaché.
The UAE has been in talks with France since 2008 on a sale of 60 upgraded Rafales, but the negotiations suffered political upsets along the way and Gulf officials saw the initial $10 billion tag as excessive.
On the Rafale talks, French defense minister Gérard Longuet told journalists here "the final stage has been well engaged and a flick of the eyebrows could mean hundreds of millions of euros either way."
Each side was defending its interests, but the talks were essentially between the Rafale commercial team and the UAE, he said.
The UAE's request for a Eurofighter bid was a case of "livening up the procedure," Longuet said, adding he still expected the UAE would order the Rafale in December when the Gulf state celebrated its 40th anniversary of founding.
An important price element was the Rafale's multirole capability, which meant the same crew could perform air combat, reconnaissance and close air support missions, Longuet said. For a country with a small population, that was a big saving in crew costs.
On the UAE's Mirage 2000-9 fleet, any decision in an "innovative solution" was a decision at the state level as part of a strategic relationship, above that of the ministry or manufacturer, he said.
Some Mirage 2000-9 units were aging, others were more recent, he said.
In the official opening of the show, UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al-Makhtum made the briefest of visits at the Rafale stand in his tour of the exhibition.
Lockheed Martin has been in talks with the UAE on F-16 upgrades, mainly communications, to allow the U.S.-built fighters to talk to the F-35, F-16 business development executive William Henry said here.
In an upgrade that took units out of service, Lockheed offered sales of new F-16s to allow operators to maintain force levels, he said.
Lockheed also has talked to the UAE about sales of the F-35, Henry said.
"As air forces look to the future, the F-35 is going to be a key element of their force planning," he said.
Lockheed sees potential sales of 50 to 100 F-16s around the world, Henry said. On top of 18 F-16s ordered by Iraq, 52 units are on the backlog.
Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Naser Al Alawi, deputy commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defense, told an air chiefs conference Nov. 12 that, in a new generation combat aircraft, the air force was looking for network capability, open architecture and interoperability.
A future weapon system would be versatile, multirole, and capable of handing modular sensors and payloads, Al Alawi said.
Other elements of the future aircraft would include upgradeable and expandable hardware and software, and the plane would be fast, agile and easily serviceable, he said.
The systems should also draw on dual use military-civil technology and offer versatility.
MBDA Chief Executive Antoine Bouvier said the European missile company has not received a request from Eurofighter or the UAE to work on an offer of weapons for the Typhoon.
The UAE Air Force flew its F-16 and Mirage 2000-9 fighters in the NATO-led coalition operation over Libya. Qatar also flew alongside with French missions.
That deployment yielded many "firsts," including the UAE's first time flying as a non-NATO member in a coalition air campaign, Al Alawi said.
Among the lessons learned from Libya were the need for integration of non-NATO elements into the alliance procedures, need for a well thought out communications plan among partner nations and the importance of exchange liaison officers, Al Alawi said.
The UAE is still in talks with the French government and industry for the Rafale, a Gulf source said.
UAE foreign minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan recently held a first meeting with his counterpart Alain Juppé, who has been tasked by president Nicolas Sarokzy to lead the export drive for the Rafale.
The request for a Eurofighter bid is the latest setback for France's Rafale foreign sale campaign. UAE officials asked Lockheed for information on the F-16s, on which the Gulf state has invested in co-development on its Block 60 version.
The U.S government was also out in force at the show, displaying the V22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft for the first time here, as well the F-15, F-16 and F-18 fighters. The Apache attack helicopter was also at the show.
Bilateral ties between France and the UAE were back to normal after a hitting a low patch last year, when the Gulf state viewed the Paris government as ignoring its concerns.

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