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The Innovators Of Arabia
by James Dunnigan
August 17, 2013

A government supported military manufacturer in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has developed an innovative medium UAV. The Adcom Systems United 40 UAV is a 1.5 ton aircraft with a unique staggered biplane glider type wing arrangement that enables it to stay in the air for 120 hours. That’s three times what an American UAV of similar size (the Gray Eagle) is capable of. The United 40 can carry 400 kg (880 pounds) of weapons and sensors and has a max altitude of 7,000 meters (23,000 feet). Russia was so impressed that they are buying five of them.

Adcom has been around for 23 years and produces a wide range of military equipment. It does this by licensing a lot of technology and forming partnerships with high-tech firms in the West. Adcom has been working on UAVs for a decade now. One of their earliest successes came from a partnership with Schiebel, in Austria, and CybAero, in Sweden, to produce two helicopter type UAV designs. These were built for police work and border patrol. German and South Korean firms also contributed technology. The smaller al Sber is intended for short range police work, while the larger APID 55 is intended for border and coastal patrol.

For over a decade the UAE has been encouraging local companies to develop weapons for use by local forces and export markets. So far this has resulted in UAE firms manufacturing military trucks, guided missiles, and small arms. Despite this, in the last five years the UAE has become the third largest importer of weapons in the world and the largest in the Middle East. The other two big spenders worldwide are India and China. In the Middle East the UAE imports 50 percent more weapons than Israel.

The UAE is a confederation of small Arab states at the southern end of the Persian Gulf. With a population of only 5.5 million, and large oil and gas deposits, the emirates have a per-capita income of $43,000. Thus the UAE has a lot to defend and an increasingly belligerent neighbor just across the Gulf. The UAE controls one side entrance to the Gulf (the Straits of Hormuz). Iran is on the other end, and both nations dispute ownership of some islands in the middle.

The UAE wants to defend itself from potential Iranian use of ballistic missiles. To that end, they are spending $7 billion on American THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-missile systems to protect itself against the growing arsenal of Iranian ballistic missiles. The UAE is also buying a lot of aircraft, including 75 U.S. F-16s and 50 French Mirage 2000-9 fighters. There are also ten U.S. C-103J and four C-17 transports on order. Then there are munitions, 1,300 American laser and GPS guided bombs. Several warships are also on the way.

The UAE is also spending nearly a billion dollars to put up four radar satellites. The GulfSAR (synthetic aperture radar) satellites will use an orbit that will cover an area 43 degrees north and south of the Equator. The UAE is also spending billions on armored vehicles, artillery, and other equipment for their ground forces. More billions being spent on bases, training, support, and logistics.

Iran is spending less than 15 percent of what the UAE is. That's mainly because Iran is under several arms embargoes and is cash poor because the religious dictatorship in charge is financially inept and corrupt. But the Iranians have a long (over 3,000 years) reputation for aggressive behavior and dominating the region. Going retro on the neighbors is growing more popular with Iranians, especially if the neighbors are rich and Iran could use the money. At least that's how the Arabs on the other side of the Persian Gulf see it.


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