PARIS --- Ending years of on-again, off-again negotiations, the United Arab Emirates announced last week that they had awarded several contracts to upgrade their fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000-9 fighters.
There has been no formal announcement of the upgrade program, just short statements stretched out over three days at last week’s Dubai Airshow. Dassault first announced that the UAE had decided to upgrade their Mirage 2000-9 fighters two years ago, at the 2017 Dubai Air Show, when it issued a press release saying it “welcomes this decision and is grateful to the UAE authorities for their trust.”
In 2017, Patrice Caine, CEO of French electronics group Thales, was quoted as saying that the upgrade would include a new mission computer, an improved radar, an upgraded electronic warfare suite, new electro-optical system, improved communications navigation and identification systems as well as digital cockpit displays and a helmet-mounted sight, but it is not clear whether the deal signed last week covers the same improvements.
At the Dubai Airshow last week, Maj. Gen. Abdullah Al Sayyed Al Hashemi, Assistant Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Defence for Support Services, announced four Mirage-related contracts during his daily press conferences. Together, these contracts have a total value of $929 million.
The largest deal, awarded to Dassault, is worth AED 1.798 billion ($489.6 million) “to upgrade Mirage aircraft,” Al Sayyed said, but provided no other details. In particular, it was not specified whether the entire fleet would be upgraded, or only a portion. Abu Dhabi originally bought 62 Mirage 2000-9 in 1986 for the UAE Air Force, but the number of aircraft still in service 30 years later is not clear. Several sources say the fleet numbers about 55 aircraft, of which 14 used for training.
Three other Mirage-related contracts were also announced. The largest one, worth AED 1.281 billion (approx. $350 million) was awarded to MBDA France “to provide maintenance of ammunitions for Mirage 2000 aircraft,” according to the WAM Emirates News Agency.
Again, no other details were provided, but the size of the contract suggests that it could include the upgrade of the Mirage weapons package, such as the modernization of both versions (radar and infra-red guidance) of the MICA air-to-air missile, the Black Shaheen cruise missile as well as the procurement of other weapons.
On Nov. 18, the GHQ of the Emirates Armed Forces announced the award of two additional contracts.
The first went to Thales International Middle East “to provide maintenance and life extension services for Mirage 2000 aircraft containers for a value of AED 232.6 million. ($63.3 million)
The second was awarded to MBDA France; it is worth AED 93 million ($25.3 million) contract to “provide technical support and supply spare parts for aircraft weapon systems.”