IDEX 2017: UAE receives Predator UAVs
The United Arab Emirates has accepted delivery of all aircraft for its initial Predator UAV system, Shephard has learnt.
Designated the RQ-1E in UAE service, the successful handover marks the first export of a Predator system to a Middle East country and a non-NATO member.
The deal, worth in the region of $200 million, was announced at IDEX four years ago.
US company General Atomics has partnered with Dubai-based International Golden Group (IGG) on the project, with the latter acting as prime contractor on the programme, responsible for supplying aircraft, ground control stations, spares and support to the UAE Air Force.
Although the number of platforms procured has not been disclosed, a Predator 'system' normally consists of four aircraft.
The RQ-1E – known as the Predator XP by manufacturer General Atomics – is an unarmed, export version of the famous MQ-1 Predator used by the US Air Force in conflicts such as Afghanistan and other global hotspots.
Fitted with high-definition electro-optical/infrared sensors and a multi-mode radar, the UAV offers significantly improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities for the UAE Air Force.
The multi-mode radar can provide several capabilities including synthetic aperture radar (SAR), ground moving target indicator (GMTI) and a maritime wide-area search.
The UAV can fly 'persistent' ISR missions flying at 25,000ft for approximately 35 hours.
The RQ-1E is also capable of automatic take-off and landing, a similar capability employed on the US Army's Gray Eagle platform.
Stringent export restrictions means that the UAE aircraft has no weapon hardpoints and its payload is restricted in line with the decades-old Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
The MTCR severely limits the export of systems that have a payload of at least 500kg and can travel over 300km, also known as Category I systems. The Predator XP has a payload limit just below 500kg, making exports easier to approve by the US State Department.
The UAE's previous experience with medium-altitude long endurance UAVs has included the reported purchase of armed Chinese systems, as well as the attempted development of an indigenous aircraft through Abu Dhabi-based Adcom.
Open-source information suggests that the UAE has previously deployed a Chinese Wing-Loong 'Pterodactyl' to an air base in Eritrea, presumably to support operations in Yemen.
In a sign of its growing requirement for MALE UAVs, the country has also ordered the P.1HH Hammerhead UAS, manufactured by Italian company Piaggio Aerospace.
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