United Arab Emirates

The UAE Armed Forces have grown significantly over the years and currently are equipped with some of the most modern and sophisticated weapon systems. In order to achieve this, the UAE has allocated significant amounts of funds in the directions of defence and security in recent years. According to a report published by the US International Trade Administration, UAE’s defence expenditure in 2016 was expected to increase by 7.4%, reaching some 23.5 billion US dollars, from 21.8 billion in 2015

The UAE Armed Forces have grown significantly over the years and currently are equipped with some of the most modern and sophisticated weapon systems. In order to achieve this, the UAE has allocated significant amounts of funds in the directions of defence and security in recent years. According to a report published by the US International Trade Administration, UAE’s defence expenditure in 2016 was expected to increase by 7.4%, reaching some 23.5 billion US dollars, from 21.8 billion in 2015.

Despite the fact that the UAE’s defence industry is evolving at a fast pace, still this GCC country purchases defence equipment from a number of foreign countries. The majority of such defence equipment are typically purchased from the US, as the UAE is one of the largest export markets in the world for US defence and security materiel, accounting for some 61% of the total defence imports of the UAE over the period 2010-2016, purchasing among others, F-16 aircraft and supporting equipment and services, as well as PATRIOT and Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (“THAAD”) systems. Other countries that exported defence equipment in large to the UAE over the same period, were France (11.26% of total defence imports), Russia (6.63%) and Italy (5.1%).
 
The UAE Army is mainly equipped with US (Oshkosh M-ATV mine resistant ambush protected vehicles), Russian (BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles) and French (Leclerc main battle tanks) equipment. In 2015, the UAE Army was deployed to Yemen, intervening in support of fighters loyal to the ousted regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, demonstrating high combat effectiveness.

On the other hand, the UAE Air Force is mainly equipped with US, UK and French equipment. The UAE Air Force currently operates one of the most technologically advanced F-16 configurations, the Block 60 version, which is based on the F-16C/D Block 50/52 and has been developed especially for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Additionally, they operate various Mirage 2000 variants, British Hawk trainer aircraft and a fleet of AH-64D Apache attack helicopters.   

Finally, the UAE Navy is primarily concerned with coastal defence, and as a result mainly consists in coastal patrol boats, as well as 9 corvettes in total (3 of the Abu-Dhabi class and 6 of the Baynunah class).
 
The UAE Armed Forces are in a constant process of modernisation and a significant amount of money is projected to be allocated for the procurement of associated equipment in the years to come. Traditionally, the Air Force receives the lion’s share of the procurements’ budget, with Land Forces coming second, followed by the Navy. The UAE is expected to focus such procurements on border control and cyber-security systems, space and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as on the modernization of telecom and Command and Control centres. Additionally, the GCC country will most probably seek to buy sophisticated and high-tech naval defence equipment and missile products and systems.
 
More specifically, the UAE is reported to be interested in becoming a partner in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme. Additionally, the country is investing heavily in space related capabilities. In July of 2014, the UAE founded the UAE Space Agency and announced that it plans to send a probe to Mars by 2021. Under this context, on June 26th 2016, Lockheed Martin announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UAE Space Agency to launch a comprehensive dual-track space training program on space fundamentals. The program should be considered part of Lockheed Martin’s growing collaboration with the UAE Space Agency. The UAE’s investments in space technologies have already exceeded AED 20 billion (5.4 billion US dollars).