The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed an outline agreement to buy Russian aircraft. It also plans to implement a joint project with Russia to develop a next-generation fighter that could enter service in seven or eight years.
According to Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, who led the Russian delegation at the IDEX 2017 exhibition, the UAE is to purchase a batch of advanced Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E fighters.
«We signed an agreement of intent for the purchase of the Su-35», Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Rostec Corporation, told Russian news agency TASS. He did not provide details about the deal. A total of 24 Su-35 fighters were sold to China under the first export contract.
The significance of signing ceremony was illustrated by the fact that it was attended by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. As reported, the agreement «provides for procurement, development and partial manufacturing of advanced air, land and naval equipment to serve the requirements of the UAE armed forces».
According to The National Interest, «More troubling for the United States, the deal is an indication that the UAE—a long-time U.S. ally—is drifting into Moscow’s orbit».
According to Mr. Chemezov, work on the fifth generation joint light fighter is to start as early as 2018. The aircraft is expected to be a variation of the MiG-29 fighter jet. The future warplane proposed by Russia would be built in the UAE »full cycle» following completion of design work and the production of test aircraft. The memorandum of understanding between Russia and the UAE to jointly develop the fighter aircraft follows a similar fighter jet collaboration deal agreed between Russia and India last year.
The Su-35 is a multifunctional 4++ generation fighter, employing fifth-generation combat avionics. The one seater two-engine high-wing aircraft features a retractable tricycle-type landing gear and nose gear strut. Equipped with AL-41F1S turbojet engines with an afterburner and a controlled thrust vector, it is capable of «pivot turning» and deceiving enemy missiles.
The plane boasts a maximum speed of 2,400 km/h. Its maximum flying range is 3,600 km without external fuel tanks and 4,500 km with external fuel tanks. The service ceiling is 20,000 meters. The specifications allow it to easily outrun every Western fighter.
The aircraft has 12 external bays for precision missiles and air bombs and two bays for electronic warfare containers.
The armament includes 30mm guns, a huge number of missiles and rockets. The combat load is 8 tons. It has 12 hardpoints for carrying external weapons and stores. The aircraft would be launching its weapons from high supersonic speeds around Mach 1.5 at altitudes greater than 45,000 feet. This means the missiles could reach with their targets faster, giving opponents less time to maneuver or respond in kind.
Military experts are especially impressed with the Su-35’s sophisticated phased-array radar control system Irbis-E, which allows the plane to detect targets at distances of up to 400 kilometers. It can simultaneously track up to four ground targets or up to 30 airborne targets, as well as engage up to eight airborne targets at the same time. The radar has a friend-or-foe identification capability for aerial and maritime objects. It is capable of identifying the class and type of airborne targets and can take aerial photos of the ground. An oscillator with peak power output of 20 kW used in the passive phased array radar makes Irbis-E the most powerful radar control system on par with the best international designs, and ahead of most US and European active and passive phased array radars.
The aircraft is also equipped with «Khibiny-M» – a state-of-the-art electronic warfare equipment, which includes a radar warning system, radar jammer, co-operative radar jamming system, missile approach warner, laser warner and chaff and flare dispenser. A relatively small container in the shape of a torpedo is mounted on the wingtips of the aircraft to make the jets invulnerable to all modern means of defense and enemy fighters.
The pilot has two VHF/UHF encrypted radio communications systems and a jam-resistant military data link system between squadron aircraft and between the aircraft and ground control. The navigation system is based on a digital map display with a strapdown inertial navigation system and global positioning system.
High-strength, low-weight, composite materials have been used for non-structural items such as the radomes, nose wheel, door and leading-edge flaps. Some of the fuselage structures are of carbon fibre and aluminium lithium alloy.
The aircraft was deployed to Syria a year ago.
German magazine Stern stated that the Su-35 can be considered the world’s deadliest fighter jet other than the fifth-generation US F-22.
The UAE has already purchased Russian ground weapons, such as BMP-3 infantry combat vehicles and Pantsir S1 air-defense systems. The acquisition of the military aircraft is another big step on the way of developing military cooperation with Russia.
The Emirates is not the only Russian customer in the Persian Gulf. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Qatar’s State Minister for Defense Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah signed a military cooperation agreement in September on the sidelines of the Army-2016 international military-technical forum in Kubinka near Moscow.
Kuwait and the UAE have purchased Russian infantry fighting vehicles.
Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in Russian “Iskander-E” short-range ballistic missiles, S-400 long-range air defense systems, missile patrol boats and medium landing ships. Saudi Arabia paid for Russian arms supplies to Egypt.
The Su-35 and the fifth generation aircraft deal with the UAE reflects the fact that Russia’s geopolitical influence and soft power in the Persian Gulf has increased recently. It is not limited to military cooperation only.
A $10 billion package deal has been signed between Russia and Saudi Arabia on various projects. As part of the agreement, Russia too will invest in the Saudi Arabian market. President Putin met with King Salman in Antalya in November 2015, and with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud in June 2015 in St. Petersburg, as well as in October of the same year in Sochi.
Russian energy giant Gazprom has expanded its cooperation with Qatargas on liquefied natural gas production. Trade with Oman has grown exponentially. Businessmen from the UAE have invested in the infrastructure for the 2014 winter Olympic games in Sochi. They took part in the construction of a major port near St. Petersburg and cooperated with Rosneft in pipeline construction projects. Political contacts are also intensive.
The relations with Bahrain are on the rise in all spheres. His Majesty the King Hamad has visited Russia four times during the last six years.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states GCC countries did not join the United States and the EU in imposing economic sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. Moscow has said many times it would welcome the formation of a broad-based Arab coalition around a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
The growing cooperation with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf are part of the broader process, with Russia’s foothold strengthened in the Middle East amid the tectonic changes taking place to change the political landscape of the region.