A lot of foreign countries want to get their hands on the gold standard of drones, The General Atomics Predator. I’ve spoken with senior members of the company and they assure me that the exportable version cannot be modified with hard points to fix weapons. Apparently this is because of internal mods to the center of gravity (CG) that would make the plane unable to fly if hard points were attached.

Regardless of weaponizing, the Predator will give some serious capability to the UAE and others in the Middle East who are already on the red carpet list to acquire the drone.

Read more below.

From Al Jazeera English

The United Arab Emirates has signed defence contracts worth $1.4bn, including one for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, the country’s military says.

The value of the deals was announced on the third day of the IDEX defence show in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

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The largest deal, worth $380m, was for 750 mine-resistant, ambush-protected, all-terrain vehicles from Oshkosh Corp.

The UAE’s armed forces also agreed to buy an undisclosed number of unarmed Predator drones from privately-owned US firm General Atomics in a deal worth $197m.

United Arab Emirates

“UAVs are significant for any armed forces in present times. There is a lot of demand for these,” Major General Obeid al-Ketbi told reporters on Monday at the largest arms exhibition in the Middle East, held in Abu Dhabi.

Bombs and maintenance

The UAE awarded the contract to purchase the drones to a local company, International Golden Group, which will buy them from the US firm.

The deal marks General Atomics’ first sale of an unarmed version of its Predator drones in the Middle East.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are among several countries, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, asking US officials to buy armed drones but which have been rebuffed.

The US says that it is committed to an international agreement designed to limit the spread of long-range precision weaponry, which restricts drone exports.

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General Atomics’ export-variant Predator will have no “hard points” to attach missiles and would be deliberately engineered to make adding new weaponry impossible, the company said last year.

Separately, the UAE also signed a contract for the maintenance of military aircraft with local firm
AMMROC for $490.5m, Ketbi said.

He said the contracts also included a $117.2m deal with US manufacturer Raytheon for materials used in GBU12 and GBU58 bombs.

Tuesday’s agreements bring the total value of contracts signed so far at the biennial show to $2.76bn

Main photo courtesy of General Atomics