US changes policy when selling Predators to UAE

UAE seeks more surveillance, intelligence technology


Previously U.S. has severely restricted selling unmanned aircrafts to other countries, but a signed agreement between a U.S manufacturer and a defense supplier based in Abu Dhabi is breaking the restriction.

The signed agreement between the U.S. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and the Abu-Dhabi based International Golden Group (IGG) has made IGG the marketing agent for Predator surveillance drones to the UAE, The National newspaper reported on Friday.

"We have signed a memorandum of understanding and hope to agree a deal with the Armed Forces this year," the UAE-based The National quoted Emad Arikat, the deputy chief executive of IGG, saying Thursday.

Selling the deal to the UAE marks a shift in U.S. policy on the Predator, since the sales of the unmanned aircraft to other governments have been "severely restricted," the newspaper said.

Without weapons

The ‘twist’ is that General Atomics has gave the go-ahead to sell an unarmed version of the aircraft, called the Predator XP, or Export. XP similar to the physical dimensions and capabilities as the U.S. air force’s original Predator but without weapons.

"We have been previously restricted to whom we could sell the aircraft," said Christopher Ames, the director of strategic development at General Atomics. "But we have worked very hard to get the authorization to sell the Predator XP."

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is one of the most advanced defense systems in the field of intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance.

It can circle high above a battlefield and provide live video and other imagery to military staff in command centers kilometers from the action.

"First and foremost, our focus is to provide this capability to the UAE Armed Forces," Mr Ames said.

Other UAVs

In addition to the Predator, General Atomics can also now sell the Grey Eagle, Reaper and Avenger UAVs.

The Predator is said to have spent more hours in the air than any aircraft in the U.S. military. It has come to prominence in recent years as it is being used in an increased number of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Major Gen Obaid al Ketbi, the spokesman for the UAE Armed Forces at the International Defence Exhibition (Idex), which ended Thursday in Abu Dhabi, said the Armed Forces had not yet begun discussions with IGG and General Atomics on the Predator.

But new forms of technology are certainly on the Armed Forces radar. The UAE military committed nearly $817 million to cyber networks, communications and intelligence at Idex this week.

Major Gen al Ketbi said the Armed Forces were "paying more attention" to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.