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UAE Air Force eyes engineering prowess

posted on 26/11/2005: 2116 views

The UAE Air Force's surveillance and reconnaissance (S&R) programme is focusing on training and developing an engineering corps and building indigenous products. "Our research and technology centre in Abu Dhabi is working closely with local and international institutions. "The aim is to train and build a pool of engineers to work in our S&R programmes, particularly the production and maintenance of unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs]," said Major Ali M. Al Shehi, ground station manager of the UAE Space Reconnaissance Centre.

His remarks addressed some views by western analysts that the UAE was wasting time and effort in making products that can be readily bought. Disagreeing with these views, he said the UAE was developing and customising the products "according to our requirements and needs." The Air Force has completed testing a static aerial vehicle the TCOM Aerostat developed and built in Abu Dhabi in partnership with US company TCOM, Al Shehi said.

The aerostat provides continuous airborne surveillance and communication coverage and is ready for operations, he said. He did not rule out the production of UAVs and aerostatic surveillance products on a commercial basis. "Right now we want to monitor its performance. Once we are satisfied with the performance of all our products and programmes, we may think of marketing them. They are ideal for military and civilian applications."

The Air Force's second focus is to develop its Space Reconnaissance Centre, which has a ground station in Abu Dhabi to receive commercial satellite images for military and civilian use. The centre is the main information source supporting the intelligence and the military in the UAE, he said. Industry observers at the Dubai Air Show said the first question addressed by countries that go in for indigenous production is what are the offset benefits.

"Many countries that may not have an industrial base are keen on building a software base. There is an inevitability that as countries grow and advance they will want to develop their own pool of technical expertise," said Nigel Culliford, business development executive, CMC Electronics, a participant. (The Gulf News)


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