ABU DHABI, Feb 23 (Reuters) - United Arab Emirates'
state-owned weapons maker EDGE expects to be involved in the
supply chain of Lockheed Martin's F-35 war plane if the
sale of U.S. planes to the Gulf Arab state goes ahead, its chief
executive said on Tuesday.
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is re-examining
the sale of 50 F-35 stealth jets, 18 armed drones and other
military equipment approved by former President Donald Trump
during his last days in office.
"Any platform that is coming to the country, we are now
getting heavily involved in this supply chain in whatever
component that makes sense for the client and for us," EDGE CEO
Faisal al-Bannai said at Abu Dhabi's Idex defence exhibition.
EDGE, a $5 billion state defence conglomerate, could
integrate subsystems, products and weapons, perform maintenance,
repair and overhaul (MRO) work and also develop weapons such as
missiles for the jet, he said.
The Gulf state, one of Washingtons closest Middle Eastern
allies, was promised a chance to buy the war planes when it
established formal ties with Israel last year.
EDGE was in "advanced discussion" with several Israeli
defence companies about jointly funding and developing missiles
and unmanned platforms, Bannai said without identifying the
"Quite soon there will be announcements," he said.
It is not clear when Washington will complete its review,
though even if approved the first F-35 is not expected to be
delivered for several years.
"Every country has their own process. I think they will go
through their process and come to what is a right decision for
them," Bannai said of the U.S. review.
The UAE's Ambassador to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba has said
he is confident the sale would go through.
The jets are a major component of a $23 billion sale of
high-tech armaments from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp
and Raytheon Technologies Corp to the UAE.
The F-35, the world's most advanced war plane, would give
the UAE a "huge deterrence capability" against regional foe
Iran, an Arab diplomat in the Gulf told Reuters.
"The F-35 gives a lot of control over the Gulf skies. It's a
big thing. It's a game changer for the UAE," the diplomat said.
EDGE, tasked with supplying advanced weapons to the UAE
armed forces, is focused on developing drones, unmanned
vehicles, smart weapons and electronic warfare equipment rather
than conventional weaponry.
"We are a small country in size and population ... we are
extremely focused on deploying more smarter technology that can
apply a 'force multiplier' to our army," Bannai said.
EDGE is developing a directed energy system, to be unveiled
next year, that can be used against aerial and land threats.
EDGE announced on Tuesday it would supply Rheinmetall's
Oerlikon Skynex air defence system with a short-range
interceptor missile system known as SkyKnight.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Susan Fenton)