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Dubai Airshow 2021: EDGE CEO vows no let-up in growth plans

18th November 2021 - 18:00 GMT | by Leonid Nersisyan in Dubai

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UAE conglomerate EDGE was a prominent presence at the Dubai Airshow 2021. (Photo: Dubai Airshow)

Shephard explored the prospects for the UAE defence industry with Faisal Al Bannai, CEO of EDGE.

The EDGE defence conglomerate in the UAE has grown fast since its formation almost two years ago, and its CEO expects to maintain this pace of development as indigenous technologies are complemented by industrial overseas partnerships.

‘We are not a defence contractor that is having advanced technology. We want to be an advanced technology company that happens to be in the defence sector. In general, we want to be a technology company,’ Faisal Al Bannai told Shephard.

EDGE was established in November 2019 to focus on autonomous capabilities, EW and smart weapons. At the same time, it was important to quickly bring products to the global market; Al Bannai mentioned that the company has completed more than 20 international transactions, mostly in the last 12-15 months involving unmanned systems, EW, armoured vehicles and munitions. Some these deals should be announced ‘over the next two or three months’, he said.

The Emirati conglomerate is spreading its wings with ‘a number of international transactions in various categories’ for unnamed customers in Africa and Asia, Al Bannai said, noting: ‘There are sales that we've done to Europe for electronic warfare.’

EDGE company Halcon unveiled its first anti-ship cruise missile at IDEX earlier this year.

Closer to home, EDGE used the Dubai Airshow 2021 to announce a number of MoUs, partnerships and contracts for work in the UAE. Details of contracts with Gulf Cooperation Council countries and other Middle Eastern countries ‘will definitely be announced during next few months’, he added.

In terms of the need to procure key components for complex weapons developed by EDGE, such as the Halcon HAS-250 cruise missile, Al Bannai revealed plans to develop indigenous engines in the UAE to power UAVs and cruise missiles.

He said that EDGE already uses some of their own engines, and ‘subsystem providers are already identified’ for an active programme. EDGE plans to unveil a local design house for the engines and it will also announce an engine joint design authority.

‘We want to be able to design and modify engines [in the UAE]… at least we want to be able to be in a position where we can be a design house for engines and able to modify engines for our needs here,’ Al Bannai added.

He also discussed the readiness of various UAV projects that were announced in recent months, claiming that development is going at a high pace and some projects are very close to serial production, like the large Garmoosha VTOL UAV which will be delivered to UAE Armed Forces in January 2022. 

'We want to be able to be in a position where we can be a design house for engines and able to modify engines for our needs here'Faisal Al Bannai, CEO EDGE

Progress also appears good on the Shadow series of high-speed loitering munitions, with flight tests and operational tests finished and initial deliveries earmarked for 2022. Hunter tube-launched drones will be ready for delivery in Q3-Q4 2022, Al Bannai added.

He went on to share the secret of rapid product development: ‘The reason you can see products coming this fast, is because the decision process with [the UAE] MoD is much more efficient than what we see in other countries. Our ability to decide and move on product is much more agile and faster. Everyone has good guys, good engineers, everywhere. It's then “how are you working to deliver faster?”’

According to the EDGE CEO, the UAE government is very clear on what it wants. This clear decision-making comes from the depth of experience the UAE has in procuring military equipment of all types, all around the world.  

When asked whether exports licensing rules might prevent EDGE from exporting to countries with tight regulations, the company insists that export processes frome the UAE are generally efficient.

Indeed, Al Bannai added that difficulties might actually lie more with import processes, as buying defence equipment from overseas can be a tortuous and highly bureaucratic process.

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