UAE seeks to bolster arms industry to reduce imports

18 November 2021 | International

AFP

DUBAI

Drones, guided missiles, simulators: the United Arab Emirates is on the offensive to develop its defence industry in a bid to wean itself off dependence on imports.

Khalid Al-Breiki heads one of five clusters of the Emirati defence consortium EDGE, formed two years ago and bringing together 25 Emirati arms firms in a bid to develop "national capacities".

According to him, the Abu Dhabi-based defence consortium is an indicator of the "maturity of our industry in the UAE".

EDGE became the first Middle Eastern company to rank among the top 25 military firms in the world last year, with gross sales of over $5 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

"We realised that we needed to bring our capabilities under one roof to focus on what we want to manufacture and service in the country, and now we can go global with that," Breiki told AFP.

"We have a start-up mentality, but with an economy of scale."

The group has 13,000 employees "from all over the world", but it wants to hire more UAE citizens, with a focus on striking agreements with universities in the country or abroad.

Its targets align with a country-wide "Emiratisation" strategy that has seen the authorities push for more local hires in an oil-rich Gulf country, where the foreign population outnumbers citizens at almost nine to one.

At the Dubai Airshow, the huge display erected by EDGE boasts several homemade products, from guided missiles to cybersecurity systems.

The group's contracts have multiplied recently, nearly all of them with the UAE government.

Particularly lucrative deals have included maintenance of military jets, worth almost $4 billion, as well as providing guided munitions at $880 million.

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