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Middle East's military drone market heats up
Middle East military drone market gathers momentum
In common with many others around the world, Middle East defence departments are increasing military spending on UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or drones, changing military strategy, and presenting both new advantages and new threats. With emerging technologies driving the development of both remote-controlled and autonomous vehicles at a fast pace, this is no surprise. However, it's becoming clear that new UAV technologies are also opening up market opportunities for manufacturers to succeed in competition with the world's top, and long-established, defence exporters.
The US, of course, has long enjoyed the lion's share of the Middle East's defence market and that's not likely to change in the foreseeable future. That said, UAVs, AVs (autonomous vehicles) and USVs (unmanned surface drones) are one area of production where more emerging defence players may have a chance. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all have national initiatives to increase the percentage of local defence production, compared with imports. In line with this, all three have military drone development programmes.
Abu Dhabi defence conglomerate Edge Group, first demonstrated its QX prototypes for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drones for use as loitering munitions - or kamikaze drones - in 2020. This year, the group introduced a family of six QX drones developed to meet the needs of the #UAE armed forces. QX models 1 to 5 are kamikaze drones designed to carry payloads of 0.5 kg through to 25 kg, while the QX-6 is a fully-autonomous VTOL UAV able to deliver a payload of 150 kg to to remote and inaccessible locations (with both military and commercial applications).
In #Saudi Arabia a number of agreements have been signed during the past few weeks to manufacture the Sky Guard UAV system, developed buy the Prince Sultan Defense Studies and Research Center (PSDSARC). Sky Guard is capable of carrying out surveillance and reconnaissance missions at altitudes of up to 18,000 feet with a maximum payload of 50 kg, and can be produced in several configurations. Meanwhile, earlier this year, two Saudi manufacturers confirmed that they had started produce Turkish medium-altitude, long-endurance drone Karayel-SU under licence.
As with all defence sales, diplomacy also plays a role in drone buying. The thawing of relations between the UAE and #Turkey, have opened up the possibility of UAE orders for Turkey's medium-altitude long-endurance UAV, the Bayraktar TB2. After being battle-tested in Libya, Syria and Ukraine, the Bayraktar now seems to have become the military 'drone du jour', with increasing sales across the Middle East and Africa, repeat orders from Ukraine and even the United Kingdom considering the UAV. This week, #Iraq's defence minister confirmed that the country had earmarked $100 million for buying the Turkish drone.
With this UAV production developing very fast, with so many potential players, it's hard to predict what the relevant segments of the Middle East defence market might look like in 2-3 year's time. However, with UAV opportunities growing for sales to air, land and sea defence forces - in the short term - it looks like there's something for everyone.
Go deeper into this story:
Read this Reuters story on Saudi Arabia's plans for increasing local military production.
Read Daily News Egypt's story on developing Egypt’s military production.
Read Iraq allocates $100 million for Turkish drones. (Global Defense Corp.)
Read the Edge QX5 and QX6 press release.