BILL READ and HARRY LAWSON report from the third day of the Dubai Air Show where the focus was on the future prospects of the region's defence industry

Another hot day for business

Day three of the show saw the announcement several more major orders plus a focus on the current state of the Middle East defence market and its prospects for business. Here’s some of the highlights



Concept art of Vietjet A321neo (Airbus)

Vietnam’s carrier VietJet signed a deal today with Airbus for 30 Airbus A321s, comprised of nine A321ceos and 21 A321neos. The deal was signed by Vietjet President and CEO, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, and John Leahy, Chief Operating Officer, Customers, Airbus.


MRO for Etihad

Meanwhile, Etihad has extended its strategic co-operation with Air France-KLM via a contract signed at today’s show. The several hundred million dollar deal will ensure the continued maintenance programme of Etihad’s Boeing 777 fleet. The ten year deal will begin in February 2016. 

Gulf airlines  become RAeS Corporate members

Akbar Al Baker of Qatar and Martin Broadhurst,

The Royal Aeronautical Society’s President Martin Broadhurst today presented Qatar’s CEO Akbar Al Baker and Etihad’s COO Richard Hill with certificates signifying their corporate partnerships with the RAeS.


Martin Broadhurst with Richard Hill of Etihad.



US military hardware is much in evidence at the Dubai show.

Defence is a hot topic in the Middle East where several countries are currently engaged in active conflicts in a number of regions – including Syria, Iraq and Yemen. US and other international military forces are fighting together with the UAE and other regional armed services while leading defence companies from around the world have come to Dubai to promote their wares and services.

“The Middle East market is a very important one for us,” said Tom Bell, senior VP of Global Sales & Marketing for Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS). on Monday. “We’ve already got lots of links with national armed forces in the area and are looking for opportunities for growth and partnership.”

Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the USAF speaking at the show today with General Brown, Commander, US Air Forces Central Command, Southwest Asia.

 “UAE is one of our most capable partners,” stated Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the USAF who spoke at the show today. “We are working together on a number of joint initiatives with many of the Middle East governments.

“In particular, we are working to counter the threat of ISIS,” added General Brown. “Not just with conventional military means but also in social media. In particular, we are focusing to degrade their power through reducing their sources of revenue.”


A model of the AW609 at the signing ceremony.

The UAE Ministry of Defence today signed a memorandum of understanding with Finmeccanica to purchase three AgustaWestland AW609 tiltrotor aircraft. The intention is that the three AW609s will join the UAE’s Joint Aviation Command in a search and rescue role. At today’s signing, members of the Ministry of Defence said that the recent AW609 accident in Italy has had no impact on their decision to purchase the aircraft.


Reloaded HAWK  to get F-35-style cockpit makeover


Hawk goes widescreen

BAE’s Hawk T2 may be seen as some as an ‘old’ jet trainer but BAE rebuff this claim saying the T2 is in fact 90 per cent different to its original incarnation. All that is really old is the name ‘Hawk’. It sees the Middle East as a market of opportunity for the T2 and already has several customers in the region. Improvements to BAE’s delivery of the T2 incudes advice on the recruitment of air crew and technicians as it sees the aircraft as a crucial stage in air force training and development. Pilots trained on the T2 will go on to fly the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 and the development of the Hawk’s synthetic and live training capabilities will provide the essential stage in pilot and air crew advancement. An example of BAE’s progression towards this capability goal, is its incorporation of synthetic training capabilities into the T2’s software. BAE invited AEROSPACE to see its new Large Area Display (LAD) installed in a Hawk cockpit simulator in its Dubai Airshow stand. The LAD replaces the cockpit displays with an all-encompassing screen that allows the pilot or weapons operator to select and manipulate incoming data to spot and access targets. Software upgrades also open up the world of synthetic training and battlespace scenarios including in-flight synthetic exercises, i.e. threat detection and weapon releases.  Looking at the benefits of these upgrades it can be seen how the T2 can be used as a fast attack jet. The next challenge for the development is the integration of weapons systems including the Brimstone missile, transforming what is commonly seen as a trainer into a swing role jet.

90% new 



Another issue highlighted was that of the need to obtain US government approval for overseas military sales. Boeing, together with other US defence companies, is frustrated by the time it is taking the US government to approve overseas defence contracts. “We may have won the contracts,” said Jeff Kohler VP, International Business Development,BDS. “But we’re still waiting for approval. We’re concerned that customers may get fed up waiting and we will start to lose contracts as they look for local suppliers instead.”

Iran is our friend now – a poster advertising a forthcoming Iran trade show

Several commentators have remarked that military sales to the Gulf region appear to have gone off the boil in recent months with fewer new orders than expected. One possible factor is the fall in oil prices is but there are two additional factors which were not mentioned in the discussions which may too have an influence on the current Middle East defence market – one political and one economic. At previous Dubai Air Shows, there was much hype from defence manufacturers about how the region needed to upgrade its defence capabilities to counter a potential threat from Iran – an argument that is absent from this year’s show, now that relations between Iran and its neighbours have eased and economic sanctions have been lifted. In fact, there are now future trade shows being planned to increase trade links with Iran. Another factor can be found tucked in the small print of the local news. Saudi Arabia, which has been a major supplier of grain to both its own people and those in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen, is having to cease growing the crop in the desert due to the water aquifers drying up. The implications for both Saudi Arabia and its neighbours is that they will now having to redirect finances to buy all its grain from outside the region – which may well have a knock-on effect on other spending plans, including defence.


The Embraer stand features a full-size mock-up of the E2 cabin interior. Sharp-eyed readers may stop the step on the side of each seat designed (so Embraer explained) so that short passengers or cabin staff can stand on it to reach the luggage bins.

Paulo de Souza, President and CEO presented an update on the status of the manufacturer’s re-engined and upgraded E2 range of regional jets. “The fuselage of the first E2 190 aircraft is now ready on the assembly line and the wings should be in place before the end of the year,” he explained. “There will be four test flight aircraft, the first three of which should be completed during 2016.”

Mood lighting – the lights in the E2 cabin mock-up can be changed to different colours – perhaps (Embraer suggested) to reflect an airline’s corporate brand?

De Souza considers that the Middle East could be a very strong market for the E2, quoting statistics which state that 41% of local flights carry fewer than 120 passengers and 56% of regional flights only operate once a day. “There is scope for more frequency,” he said.


The SARBE Commlink comes in a choice of yellow or grey for civilian or military users

Search and rescue communications specalists McMurdo launched a new addition to its satellite-based search and rescue ecosystem range. The SARBE Commlink is a digital wireless intercom and tracking device that can help emergency response/rescue teams accelerate response times with features such as improved audio quality, extended range and options for multiple users. In addition to search and rescue missions, potential uses include disaster recovery, mountain rescue and medevac.


Lockheed Martin executive VP Rick Edwards together with some of the winning students from UAE University.

Seen at the Lockheed Martin stand was the presentation to the team at United Arab Emirates University as the winners of the UAE Cyber Security challenge which was held at the Centre for Innovation and Security Solutions, Masdar Institute campus. Underlining the importance of cybersecurity in protecting key critical national infrastructure across the UAE, the challenge put 20 undergraduate students from United Arab Emirates University, Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi Polytechnic and Zayed University through a series of challenges that simulated an attack on an oil and gas operator.


Is it just me or is there something odd about that unusually tall palm tree?

Spotted on the flight line – the UAE-style camoflaged mobile phone tower

The AEROSPACE team will be reporting on the latest news from the show in daily blogs throughout this week, so keep checking on each day. You can also get updates from the show through our reporter Harry Lawson’s tweets on @WhizzBangAnD


11 November 2015