[CENTER][FONT=arial][SIZE=5]A well-armed UAE military requires discerning buyers
[/FONT]The National/Ahmed Al Attar , Nov 18
A stereotypical view of Arab arms acquisitions is that they are made on an ad- hoc basis to serve long-term political and strategic interests and to please their defence partners. But the UAE military has broken with this trend, consistently making informed and critical decisions about what weapons to purchase.
The most recent sign of this came this week, when Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces, said a French company's bid to supply the UAE with fighter jets was "uncompetitive".
Purchasing weaponry is a great responsibility. Buyer countries must make sure that they are able to operate, support and equip the weapons platforms they are investing in, and that these weapons platforms are relevant to their defence needs. Even countries as big as the US can make strategic errors when it comes to arms purchases.
But the UAE's armed forces seem to be a very difficult customer, utilising various methods to select the best weapons platforms and also to ensure as much technology transfer as possible.
And the armed forces have not been shy about playing off contractors against each other, and reducing dependence on any single contractor.
As recent press reports - including one in The National yesterday - have made clear, the UAE has driven the hardest bargain possible when discussing the potential acquisition of the French Rafale fighter jet.
This plane was widely expected to replace the single-seater Mirage 2000-9 fighter jets currently employed in the UAE Air Force, and which recently served in Libya. The UAE has insisted that Dassault, the company selling the jets, find buyers for all 58 Mirage 2000-9s, and then provide it with a heavily upgraded Rafale fighter - at no additional cost
. The UAE is reportedly keeping its options open by expressing interest in the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F/A-18 and F-15E.
We will have to wait and see how this high-stakes contest to provide the UAE with its next generation fighters shakes out. But one thing is already clear: the UAE will get its money's worth
Ahmed Al Attar is an Emirati defence affairs commentator