Published — Thursday 21 February 2013
Last update 20 February 2013 10:20 pm
ABU DHABI: A defense official in the United Arab Emirates said the Gulf nation has signed $ 1.4 billion in military contracts that include purchases of US-made drones.
The drone deal, worth nearly $ 200 million, suggests Gulf Arab states are looking to boost surveillance capabilities to match claims by rival Iran of growing drone technology. UAE said the Predator drones, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, will not be outfitted for weapons capabilities, but used for reconnaissance.
Experts say Controversy over the legality of attacks by missile-firing drones will not dampen the volatile region’s enthusiasm for the technology, in part because export curbs mean most equipment sold will be for use only in reconnaissance.
Sello Ntsihlele, executive manager for UAVs at Denel Dynamics, a division of state-owned Denel, South Africa’s biggest maker of defense equipment, told Reuters this was “the best time” for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sales.
“Demand is growing fast in developing countries, in the Middle East, the Far East and Africa. The Gulf is critical in all this,” he said on the sidelines of the biennial International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, capital of UAE.
He said that Denel’s UAV sales had risen around 20 percent in the last four years, driven mostly by the Middle East.
Earlier, an Abu Dhabi’s firm said it had signed an agreement with Boeing Co. to “provide training, support and marketing services” for Boeing unmanned aircraft systems in the UAE.
Washington says its commitments to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a non-binding international agreement designed to limit the spread of long-range precision weaponry, restrict drone exports.