General Atomics working to save SkyGuardian dealing with UAE – Breaking Defensive Breaking Defensive

General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian flies across the Atlantic Ocean for event RAF100 (General Atomics)

UMEX 2022: Although the United Arab Emirates has withdrawn its letter of acceptance of a US weapons package that includes 18 MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones, General Atomics remains hopeful that a deal is still possible. out.

The goal, a top company official said on Wednesday, is to get the larger Foreign Military Sales (FMS) package broken down into individual services, which would separate the drone sales. steer GA away from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter package – the latter has emerged as a focal point as the US tries to get the UAE to abandon its 5G deal with China.

David Alexander, GA president of aircraft systems, told Breaking Defense Wednesday at the Unmanned Systems Conference and Exhibition (UMEX) in Abu Dhabi, “We are here to show off the aircraft and keep going. conduct negotiations.

“We are at the negotiating stage where we are looking at the configurations that they (UAE) want, because this profile can be configured in so many ways to perform different tasks and so it comes with different capabilities plus big ground infrastructure,” Alexander said of SkyGuardian.

The UAE decided last December to withdraw its letter of acceptance of the offer after the Biden administration froze an agreement, approved by the Trump administration in the last few weeks of his term, on the sale of next-generation fighter jets. fifth F-35, along with a significant number of precision strike weapons plus 18 MQ-19B aircraft.

The $23 billion package was halted while the Biden administration pushed the UAE to give up using Chinese company Huawei’s 5G communications network. In deciding to cancel the LOA, the UAE appeared to be playing hard with the US and said it could take its business elsewhere – a move that has raised concerns that the US’s rigid export policies could pave the way for China to increase its footprint in the UAE and the region.

“So you can buy from the US, or you can buy from somewhere else, and I think the reality is sinking in, and once you go to another country and buy the hardware, that’s it. is just the beginning,” Alexander.

“The program is really all the support and logistics behind it that spans 20 or 30 years. Once you have missed that opportunity, you have missed it, not because of that sale you have missed it for decades. We have to be careful not to give up.”

The GA is therefore working to keep the lines of communication open with UAE officials. The company certainly didn’t hide its presence at UMEX this week. A full-size model of SkyGuardian took up almost half of the hall, attracting a lot of attention at the three-day exhibition.

One argument that GA hopes will work its way back home is one that proponents of relaxing drone sales have used for years: that if the US blocks itself from a market, the market will That arena will simply look the other way and China is ready to strike.

“There is a connection between fierce competition from China and the US government’s decision to relax export controls. There was a time when this aircraft was so ahead of the game that it was no longer available anywhere else, but that is no longer the case,” added Alexander.

Alexander argues that while there are benefits to acquiring all the platforms in one go, breaking up the F-35 package into smaller and separate transactions could be the right path in the future.

“We thought it would be simpler to separate the products, because each product has its own limitations, constraints, and concerns,” says Alexander. “We have encouraged the UAE government to split them up. It was a political decision by both sides, the UAE and the United States, to tie them all down.”

The UAE is not the only country in the region interested in purchasing SkyGuardian.

“There has been interest in Saudi Arabia in SkyGuardian for many years. Every country in the region is interested in maritime applications,” added Alexander.

He argued that the sensors and technology on SkyGuardian put the aircraft 20 years ahead of foreign competitors, which would make it very attractive to many customers and ensure the viability of the platform. for many years to come.

“We are very excited about the future of this aircraft in the region. Mr. Alexander concluded: “Where are we with respect to export policy from the United States is to relax, and we see a bright future for this type of aircraft in this area”, Alexander concluded. . General Atomics working to save SkyGuardian dealing with UAE – Breaking Defensive Breaking Defensive

Jake Nichol

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