ABU DHABI (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates on Monday gave a boost to the Middle East’s biggest arms fair by announcing orders worth over three billion dirhams (819 million dollars), shrugging off a sharp drop in oil revenues triggered by the global economic slowdown.
The UAE armed forces said it sealed military contracts worth 2.54 billion dirhams (692 million dollars), mostly to local companies, during the IDEX 2009 defence show.
Two other deals which would be worth over 469 million dirhams (128 million dollars) are being finalised, IDEX spokesman General Obeid al-Ketbi told reporters on the second day of the arms fair.
No other major deals were announced as the five-day show ended its second day.
Local company Abu Dhabi Ship Building, which is owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, walked away with the largest deal from the UAE armed forces, receiving two contracts to supply 12 vessels and renovate 12 others, for a total of 935 million dirhams (255 million dollars), according to Ketbi.
French group Thales Communication was awarded two contracts worth 329.6 million dirhams (89 million dollars) for signalling equipment and to supply its SOTAS communication system for Leclerc tanks.
US company Harris RF Corp won a contract worth 192.2 million dirhams (52.4 million dollars) to provide communication equipment.
Discussions are under way with US giant Boeing for the provision of spare parts for Chinook helicopters and to provide training, in a contract which would be worth 373.4 million dirhams (102 million dollars) altogether.
Also a deal is being struck with the Italian firm Agusta for the UAE to buy two Agusta Westland AW139 helicopters for the value of 95.8 million dirhams (26 million dollars), Ketbi said.
US defence giant Lockheed Martin said on Monday it is hoping to sell the UAE up to 12 military C-130J transport aircraft by the end of 2009 to upgrade its ageing fleet.
The biennial fair takes place amid a global economic slowdown which has triggered a massive drop in oil prices, hitting the buying power of oil-rich Gulf Arab states, which are traditionally big spenders on weapons.
But Ketbi dismissed fears of the global financial crisis reducing spending during the show.
“I believe that this IDEX show will be stronger than all previous editions… I do not expect the purchase volumes to be impacted by the global economic crisis,” he said.
In IDEX 2007, the UAE announced orders worth 918.2 million dollars compared to 1.85 billion dollars worth of military equipment ordered in the 2005 edition of the show. IDEX was launched in 1993.
A Thales top official also remained upbeat about the defence market, predicting an annual intake of contracts of around 1.5 billion euros (1.93 billion dollars) over three years from the Middle East region, which stretches from Egypt to Pakistan in Thales’ accounts.
Security deals should amount to a third of Thales’ business in the region over the coming five years, according to Alexandre Juniac, Thales’ executive vice president for Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia.
“Defence spending has not been reduced anywhere in the world,” he said.