Thursday, April 29, 2010

French aerospace offers to set up facilities to make Rafale fighter jets in Abu Dhabi.

A consortium of French aerospace companies hoping to sell as many as 60 Rafale fighter jets to the UAE is offering to set up facilities to make the aircraft in Abu Dhabi.
The plane maker Dassault, the aerospace company Thales, the engine maker Snecma, the missile builder MBDA and the avionics maker Sagem make up the French consortium.
The companies have issued a proposal to train UAE nationals in aerospace manufacturing and production to handle local production of the jet, according to Major Gen Khalid al Buainnain, the former Commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence.
“The programmes will be about how to manufacture aircraft, how to manage factories and about quality-controlled production,” said Major Gen al Buainnain, the chairman of Baynuna Group. Baynuna is the local partner in the consortium and the jets deal is reportedly worth as much as €10bn (Dh48.87bn).
Under the proposal, “it is not only the Rafale that could be manufactured here, but also executive jets and aircraft electronics”, Major Gen al Buainnain said, noting that negotiations between the French group and the UAE Armed Forces were “progressing well” and could be concluded this year.
The offer is just the latest twist in almost two years of efforts by France to sell the UAE its newest fighter jet. If the offer goes through, it would boost Abu Dhabi’s plans to create a local, viable aerospace industry, while also marking the first export customer for the multi-role jet.

In June 2008, the UAE said it was “seriously considering” the possibility that the Rafale could enter service in about 2013. The deal would reportedly include a provision for France to buy back the UAE’s fleet of Mirage 2000s, which is due to undergo a comprehensive mid-life upgrade at about the same time.
The UAE has requested an advanced version of the Rafale, with adaptations including a more powerful engine and radar system than those designed for the French air force and navy.
While French industry officials said the upgrades would not require major redesign work for the Rafale fuselage, it remained to be seen who would shoulder the extra development costs.
The UAE is the fourth-largest arms importer in the world and has sought to structure defence contracts in ways that help it achieve the development goals of Abu Dhabi’s 2030 plan, such as building a knowledge-based economy, technology transfer and boosting local industrial capabilities.
To implement the Rafale manufacturing plan, the consortium was working with local organisations such as the Offsets Programme Bureau, Mubadala Development and the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, Major Gen al Buainnain said.
State-backed development organisations and a growing list of academic institutions are increasing their capabilities to make the capital an aerospace centre, encompassing manufacturing, maintenance, research and development and training.
An area adjacent to Al Ain airport is being developed to accommodate new aerospace ventures. In addition, Tawazun, the commercial arm of the Offsets Programme Bureau, has been planning its own industrial park that would one day be home to local and foreign companies involved in defence.
Major Gen Buainnain said the French group was open to locating the Rafale venture at any of these sites or elsewhere, such as the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi or the Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone.
“Location won’t be an issue because Abu Dhabi is very small – we will all work towards synergy,” he said. “The question is about infrastructure and having enough power and facilities.”
France is a major supplier to the Armed Forces. The largest orders include 63 Dassault Mirage fighter jets in the 1980s, and some 400 Leclerc main battle tanks in 1994.
In February last year, bilateral relations between France and the UAE were strengthened after the establishment of a permanent French naval base in Abu Dhabi.

BY:Abu Dhabi Media Company

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