Avascent Analytics’ analysts Marco Calderon and Alexander Alden traveled to Dubai, UAE for the 2015 Dubai Air Show (8-12 Nov). Here is what they found.
Dubai Air Show Roundup
Alexander Alden and Marco Calderon
Fighters Jostling for Opportunity
The broader Middle East is one of the fastest growing and most competitive fighter markets in the world. During the Dubai Air Show many contenders made their presence felt and it was clear that no one has staked out this market.
The Eurofighter Typhoon put on an impressive acrobatic show, perhaps celebrating its recent success in Kuwait where it secured a $9b contract. This is the third country in the region to acquire the Eurofighter after deals with Saudi Arabia and Oman.
The Rafale International program was also prominently on display, in the air as well as indoors. After an uphill battle to secure international customers, Rafale secured contracts with Qatar and Egypt in quick succession, and its Dubai Air Show stand celebrated this international expansion with three very large model fighters for each of the three countries operating the fighter (France, Qatar, and Egypt).
The US presence was also felt in the air with stunning acrobatics by Lockheed’s F-22 and the buzzing of the show by the powerful Boeing/Rockwell B-1. Clearly neither one of these aircraft is for sale, but other American combat platforms are on the market. Boeing’s F-15SA for Saudi Arabia with 84 units on order is one of the largest ongoing programs in the region, and the Strike Eagle was sitting pretty on the runway. Lockheed’s F-16 was there as well, and the fighter is the mainstay in the region and a new order for the UAE is looming. In the wake of a recently failed bid in Kuwait, Boeing’s F/A-18 was also not present this year (except for a Super Hornet simulator). However, the program has international hopes as politics spur change in Canada and other existing operators, like Kuwait, are likely to pursue a mid-life upgrade for existing F/A-18 fleet.
Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation had a very large stand displaying several models of different Sukhoi, MiG, and Yakovlev combat aircraft. With Egypt’s order of 46 units, Russia recently secured the largest sale of MiG-29s since the end of the Cold War. Algeria has also placed a new order for fourteen more Su-30MKAs.
In what was one of the perhaps largest stands at the Dubai Air Show, the Aviation Industry of China (AVIC) displayed its top secret FC-31 stealth fighter (J-31 designation in China, FC denotes an export version). This came as a surprise to many as this fighter prototype is shrouded in secrecy and the program currently has no customer, even in China. Nevertheless, the Chinese presence elicited curiosity and many delegations took the time to stop by and signal interest. International sales of this fifth generation fighter would be groundbreaking as many customers may want this capability that the US might be very unwilling to sell.
Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) was also present at the show marketing its JF-17. This shows how competitive the fighter market has become, including lower-end offerings from non-traditional suppliers. There are rumors that the JF-17 has secured its first (yet to be named) international customer and PAC is confident that many customers in developing countries will go for its economical solution for their fighter requirements.
Kawasaki’s debut at the Dubai Air Show
Japan is undergoing many reforms in the security sector and is slowly opening the door to international arms sales. While the rules of the road are still to be established, and the process remains uncertain, some are poised to take advantage of the new developments.
This year was the first time ever that Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) was present at the Dubai Air Show. KHI’s stand advertised the P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft and the YCX Airlifter (export version of the C-2), two non-offensive capabilities that perhaps stand the chance of getting an export license.
KHI’s presence signals an interest in international expansion and the Dubai Air Show is the best place to showcase capabilities to potential Middle Eastern customers. However, it is safe to assume that Japanese defense industry will not play a major role in this market any time soon and this is no more than a soft move to raise its profile. Nevertheless, this is something to take note of and might be a sign of things to come.
UAVs and Local Industry Take Center Stage
This year’s Dubai Air Show featured a plethora of unmanned systems displayed alongside the traditional military and commercial aircraft offerings. While the race for larger systems like the Predator or Global Hawk may have slowed down, the production of small- to mid-sized UAV’s is still booming, and it seemed that almost every exhibiting nation had some sort of unmanned offering.
France showcased a mock-up of the nEUROn at the forefront of the Dassault Aerospace booth, alongside the Rafale and Mirage-2000. China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) had its Reaper-lookalike, the Wing Loong 1, displayed prominently among their manned fighter offerings, while Chinese firm ZHZ (Zhong-Hang-Zhi) presented a diminutive VTOL called the TD220ME. Pakistan Aeronautical Complex showcased the Falco alongside the JF-17, Super Mushshak, and Karakorum. Even relative newcomers to the industry had impressive showings, like Piaggio’s P.1HH Hammerhead.
Perhaps most impressive however, was the sheer selection of regionally-produced UAV’s. There were a selection of smaller, simpler designs on display at the Higher Colleges of Technology, including AvioComposites’ AC3000 LS. The Emirates Defence Industries Company’s (EDIC) pavilion highlighted Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments (ADASI), which offered a range of procurement and integration services for unmanned systems, and ADCOM systems showed off, among others, it’s four-winged United 40 MALE UAV. Emirati manufacturers were out in force, displaying a wide range of manufacturing capabilities and services.
The United Arab Emirates’ industrial base has been growing for some time now, but has only recently made a strong push into platforms and advanced manufacturing. EDIC is parent to sixteen companies spanning platforms, ammunition, small arms, maintenance and repair services, guided munitions, and a host of other aerospace- and defense-centric industries. With national support for these fields as areas where the Emirates can succeed domestically, and then globally, programs like those at the Higher Colleges of Technology have spring up to function as direct intellectual pipelines into the burgeoning Emirati defense industry.
The United Arab Emirates is slated to remain one of the largest and fastest growing defense markets in the region, with a sizeable defense budget and a propensity to buy the best equipment available to fulfill any outstanding requirements. What remains to be seen, however, is how much of that budget will continue to be won by foreign contractors as the domestic industry matures in capability and expands its reach throughout the Gulf.
Main Story – Congress continues end-of-year work pending a response to Paris
Both the House and the Senate are back in session this week and while there is unlikely to be significant defense related votes in either chamber, negotiations on a spending bill to fund the government beyond December 11th are well underway. As a reminder, there are only three session weeks (12 legislative session days) until the existing continuing resolution ends.
In addition to negotiations on spending legislation, the House will likely consider H.R. 2262, the SPACE Act of 2015, which will substantially revise existing regulations on commercial space activity. This legislation quietly passed the Senate last week by unanimous consent and it will be taken up by the House this week.
After the horrific attacks in Paris on Friday, calls have increased for a more robust American response to ISIS. This has included calls for Congressional action and a declaration of war (or authorization of the use of military force). Given how powerful the international response to Paris has been, Congress could take action — but it is unclear if it would result in any action before Thanksgiving.
‘American companies could soon mine asteroids for profit’
‘Paris Attacks Prompt Debate on Further Military Intervention on Syria’
Congressional Defense Activity
No major floor activity related to defense scheduled. The House of Representatives will take up H.R. 2262 early this week for final passage.
House Defense Activity –
House Armed Services Hearings:
11/19 – Advancing the Science and Acceptance of Autonomy for Future Defense Systems
11/19/15 – Acquisition Efficiency and the Future Navy Force
11/19/15 – Effects of Reduced Infrastructure and Base Operating Support Investments on Readiness
Senate Armed Services Hearings:
11/17/15 – Department of Defense Reform – Overcoming Obstacles to Effective Management
11/18/15 – Undersea Critical Infrastructure Protection
Government Activity Round-up
President Obama is in Turkey meeting with the G20 countries.
The comptroller of the Pentagon, Mike McCord, indicated that the budget is on time and will likely feature few new or additional programs.