Both the aircraft original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Dassault and systems integrator Thales said on 14 November that the UAE Air Force & Air Defence (UAE AF&AD) is to modernise its fleet of 42 Mirage 2000-9 fighters that it has fielded since 2003.
No details pertaining to the work involved, timelines, or the projected cost of this upgrade were disclosed.
Besides the 42 Mirages, the UAE AF&AD also operates 79 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60 Desert Falcon fighters. The UAE has been at the centre of much speculation during recent months and years as to its future fighter plans.
In January 2014 it requested upgrades of its existing Block 60 F-16s to a new Block 61 standard that would enable the carriage of stand-off weaponry, as well as the procurement of new F-16s in this same configuration. However, no contract was ever signed.
While the UAE’s earlier plans for new and upgraded F-16s appear not to have been fulfilled, it was reported also at the Dubai Airshow that the UAE AF&AD is indeed now to upgrade its F-16s as part of a larger USD1.6 billion package. No further details were disclosed.
For some months now, the UAE has been named in connection with a possible purchase of Russian-built Sukhoi Su-35 ‘Flanker-E’ fighters. At the Dubai Airshow, undisclosed sources were reported to be saying that such a deal will happen, though doubts remain with some analysts suggesting that the UAE AF&AD is using the prospect of an Su-35 buy to pressure the United States into approving the sale to the emirates of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.