Dubai 2011: UAE re-opens fighter contest
The UAE is re-opening its multi-billion dollar fighter contest, just weeks after it seemed certain that the Dassault Rafale would be selected unopposed. French hopes that the Rafale's selection would be announced here in Dubai appear to have been dashed and the competition to supply the UAE Air Force & Air Defence with a next-generation fighter is again wide open.
On the eve of the show, UK sources reported that the UAE had issued a request for proposals (RFP) covering the supply of the Eurofighter Typhoon, and Eurofighter GmbH subsequently confirmed that such an RFP had been received, and that the company was working hard to deliver a response.
The issue of an RFP followed a UK briefing to the UAE on the Typhoon and as to how it might meet future Emirati fast jet requirements. The brief, requested by the UAE, took place on October 17 2011.
In September, it was being widely predicted that Rafale’s selection would be announced at the Dubai Airshow. The UAE’s flirtation with Rafale has been a long one, the French fighter having originally lost out to the F-16 Fighting Falcon in 1998, with renewed discussions having been announced in mid-2008.
The UAE never ran a full competition to select a fighter to replace its Mirage 2000s, but instead simply opened negotiations with Dassault for the supply of an improved and upgraded Rafale.
There was a brief wobble in September 2010, when the UAE requested information on the Boeing Super Hornet, but in December Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and commander of the UAE armed forces, asked the French side to renew its proposal to sell up to 60 Rafales to the UAE.
Though Rafale performed brilliantly in recent combat operations, the UAE has made it clear that it requires a more advanced aircraft than the current Rafale in service with the Armée de l’Air, and may be unwilling to fund the required modernisation.