Dubai Airshow 2023: Emirati weapons poised for integration on UAE's Rafale and India's Tejas fighter jets
Emirate defence firm Edge Group has announced it has reached ‘very advanced stages’ of negotiations to integrate its weapon systems onto the UAE Air Force’s Rafale 4 fighter jets, while feasibility studies have been conducted to integrate the same weapon systems on India’s Tejas Mk 1.
Theinus Botha, CEO of Edge subsidiary Al Tariq, revealed that there was a requirement for the Rafale F4 to be equipped with UAE-designed weapons. He added that Al Tariq was currently ‘in process’ with the integration with Dassault and the Air Force as part of a wider UAE spectrum of UAE weapons which will eventually be fitted onto the fighter.
The entire Al Tariq range of weapons will be expected to be put on the Dassault fighter jets, with talks, currently in ‘very advanced stages’, set to be finalised in the next quarter, Botha said. He added that Al Tariq has aimed to complete all weapons integration by 2027 – the same year when the first Rafales will be expected to arrive in the UAE.
‘The UAE weapons are ready, they are competent and the client has tried them,’ said Faisal Al Bannai, chairman of the board of directors at Edge. ‘They now want to see a much more seamless integration on a number of platforms, [and] the Mirage and the Rafale [are examples of that].’
A Dassault spokesperson confirmed to Shephard that talks between the firms and the UAE Air Force have been taking place but refused to discuss the details and timelines of a potential deal.
The French jet maker received a US$19 billion contract from the UAE in 2021 for 80 Rafale F4s to replace the Gulf nation’s Mirage 2000-9 fighters. The Mirages currently carry the Al Tariq weapons the Emirati Rafales set to receive.
‘The weapon systems have been fully integrated on the [Mirage], Botha said. ‘It’s a a very mature operational configuration.’
The UAE has planned to fly its current fighter French fighter fleet until the 2030s, then it could decide to sell them. Egypt, Greece and Morocco have been identified as likely recipients of these aircraft. The UAE Mirages have been receiving major upgrade works in the past years, meaning that a potential buyer could receive a relatively advanced second-hand capability.
Regarding the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas Mk 1, the manufacturer has scheduled to deliver all 123 units by 2027 to the Indian Air Force (IAF). Botha said Al Tariq had completed initial feasibility studies for the integration of its weapon systems as part of an offering of long-range precision guided munition to the IAF.
‘We want to integrate [our weapons] on the jet, then demonstrate it to the air force to address their operational requirements,’ Botha said. He added that a decision from New Delhi could take time, but the companies would aim to complete the integration for demonstrations by Q3 2024.
Both Al Banna and Botha mentioned ongoing discussions with Turkish UAV maker Baykar regarding potential missile integration on its platforms.
Turkey and the UAE have taken significant steps to overcome historical disputes with one avenue of the rapprochement being through military purchases. Following rumours of an earlier purchase in September 2022, the Middle East Eye (MEE) reported that Turkey and the UAE had been negotiating a $2 billion deal to acquire 120 Bayraktar TB2s since March 2022.
The procurement programme was later confirmed, and deliveries have occurred.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has also announced it had partnered with Edge Group to integrate the latter company's weapon systems onto the MQ-9B SkyGuardian uncrewed platform, subjected to the UAE's ability to purchase the drones.
Shephard's Dubai Airshow 2023 coverage is sponsored by:
More from Dubai Airshow 2023 | View all news
The updated E-99M aircraft features an updated Erieye Radar and C2 systems, as well as new EW and Identification, friend or foe (IFF) systems.
Boeing's progress in the MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter programme have marked a milestone in the transition toward low-rate initial production, following the delivery of the final test aircraft to the US Air Force.
Boeing and augmented reality training specialist Red 6 have achieved notable progress in integrating advanced technology into training aircraft.