Attempts to diversify supplies cause practical difficulties
The political leadership of the countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf (GCC) considers military-technical cooperation (MTC) as one of the most important components of improving the military potential of all countries belonging to this community. Against the background of the aggravation of the international situation, the growth of extremism and terrorist threats, the GCC states pay increased attention to the protection of coastal oil industry facilities and marine communications in their territorial waters. The creation of an effective integrated coastal zone protection system against attacks from sea and land is considered as a priority task.
The formation of a system of defense and security agreements with the United States and other NATO countries is considered a key element in ensuring the security and territorial integrity of the GCC countries. Judging by the numerous agreements, it is the United States and NATO that give priority in the field of military-technical cooperation to the countries of the region. At the same time, the GCC leaders do not neglect the import of weapons from other countries, including Russia.
The GCC countries purchase anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft missile systems and systems, guided and unguided missiles, multiple launch rocket systems, unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters, equipment for searching and detecting naval mines, communications and reconnaissance equipment, etc.
A special place in the cooperation of the GCC countries with the United States is occupied by the creation of a joint air defense system. This program includes the formation of ten air defense sectors on the territory of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, the creation of unified communication and early warning systems for an enemy air attack, as well as the deployment of a separate air defense division.
At the same time, the international situation dictates the need for continuous improvement of the defense of the Persian Gulf countries. In this regard, it seems to be the most appropriate for the GCC countries to purchase weapons from the United States as the most advanced supplier of high-tech weapons. Revenues from the sale of energy resources allow the countries of the region not to be embarrassed by their high cost.
The US Department of Defense Agency for Military Cooperation has sent a notification to the US Congress about the planned sale to Bahrain through the American Intergovernmental Foreign Military Sales program Foreign Military Sales (FMS) of 24 Bell AH-1W SuperCobra combat helicopters decommissioned by the US Marine Corps. The total cost of the proposed delivery will be $ 350 million, and weapons are not included in the delivery. Helicopters must undergo major repairs before sale, and their manufacturer, Bell Company (as part of Textron Corporation), will act as the general contractor for work and delivery.
AH-1W helicopters were delivered to the US Marine Corps from 1986 to 1999 in the amount of 179 units and finally decommissioned in 2020 (with replacement by the next modification of this family of AH-1Z helicopters). Apparently, Bahrain is supposed to deliver decommissioned AH-1W helicopters from storage after repair.
In the 1990s, AH-1W helicopters of new construction were exported to Taiwan (63 vehicles) and Turkey (10 vehicles, later Turkey also received three helicopters from the presence of the US Marine Corps). In 2018, Bahrain ordered 12 newly built Bell AN-1Z combat helicopters under the mentioned FMS program, which were delivered in 2022 and early 2023, which made Bahrain the first non-American operator of this version of the machine.
The delivered helicopters entered service with the newly formed 22nd Helicopter Squadron of the Bahrain Air Force Helicopter Wing. However, according to various sources, 22 to 25 old American Bell AH-1E/F/P Cobra combat helicopters remain in the 8th and 9th helicopter squadrons of the Bahrain Air Force - although, apparently, only a part of them is in flight condition (some of the machines passed in the 2010s years of repair and modernization by the Turkish company TAI). Most likely, it is planned to purchase 24 used AN-1W helicopters in the United States to replace them.
The command of the Saudi Arabian Navy has selected the European MBDA group as a supplier of anti-aircraft guided missiles for new warships.
The US Navy Shipbuilding and Armament Command has concluded a contract worth $ 118.7 million with the American division of the European MBDA group, providing for the supply of unified modular anti-aircraft guided missiles CAMM (Common Anti-Air Module Missile). The missiles are designed to equip MMSC (Multi-Mission Surface Combatant) multipurpose surface warships, which are being built for the Saudi Arabian Navy at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine facility in Wisconsin.
At the time of the official announcement of the sale of four MSSC ships to Saudi Arabia, it was envisaged that they would be equipped with RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow (ESSM) anti-aircraft missiles from Raytheon in two eight-container vertical Mk launchers.41. However, in October 2022, during the Euronaval-2022 exhibition in Paris, Lockheed Martin announced that the ships would receive CAMM missiles.
The state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) announced in March 2022 that it had signed a memorandum with MBDA providing for the establishment of a missile maintenance center in the kingdom. The representative of SAMI also announced plans to organize the production of CAMM and CAMM-ER (Extended Range) missiles in Saudi Arabia.
The US State Department is going to approve the delivery of the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) anti-aircraft missile systems to Kuwait. The total value of the proposed contract is estimated at about $3 billion. Kuwait plans to purchase the latest modification of the NASAMS-III anti-aircraft missile system (SAM), first introduced in 2019.
The contract package will include seven Sentinel AN/MPQ-64F1 three-coordinate radar stations (radars), as well as AMRAAM missiles (63 units), AMRAAM-Extended Range (63 units), AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II (63 units). This procurement configuration will allow the formation of seven standard fire platoons (tactical batteries) consisting of three transport launchers with medium-range missiles (AMRAAM) and one fire control radar.
The composition of the approved package also suggests that each firing platoon will include another transport launcher with nine short-range missiles (AIM-9X). Most likely, the acquisition of the NASAMS air defense system is intended to replace six batteries of outdated Skyguard/Aspide short-range anti-aircraft missile and artillery systems acquired in Italy in the 1990s.
The Government of Kuwait has asked the United States about the possibility of selling additional pyrotechnic CAD/PAD devices for ejection seats and related support. The basic agreement, worth $48.2 million, included CAD/PAD elements for the period 2025-2026. The request concerns CAD/PAD elements for the F/A-18 and KC-130/J aircraft of the Kuwait Air Force. The request also includes engineering, technical and software support, and other related elements of the program's material support. Now the total cost of the order is 59.1 million dollars.
According to the American side, "the implementation of this program is in line with the interests of US foreign policy and national security and will strengthen the security of the main non-NATO ally, which is an important force in ensuring political stability and economic progress in the Middle East."
The Governments of Kuwait and Turkey have signed a contract for the purchase of Baykar Makina Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The value of the contract signed by the Ministry of Defense of Kuwait with the Turkish side is 367 million dollars. The number of purchased UAVs and their delivery dates have not yet been disclosed.
The delivery package will include unmanned aerial vehicles, weapons and equipment for electronic warfare, as well as mobile ground control stations that meet NATO standards. The package also provides maintenance and logistical support, warranty provision, provision of auxiliary equipment, technical documentation, conducting ground tests, training pilots and technicians. In addition, it is planned to create simulators with the provision of technical support for three years.
According to the command of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces, the drones will be used to perform various tasks, including reconnaissance and target designation, and will also be able to carry weapons, including laser-guided missiles and guided bombs. Before signing the contract, Bayraktar TB2 was tested in Kuwait in July 2019 in difficult climatic conditions (high temperature, wind and sandstorms) and set a record flight time of 27 hours and 3 minutes.
On October 31, 2023, the Kuwaiti Air Force received four new Typhoon fighters from the Eurofighter consortium, the state-owned Kuwaiti news Agency (KUNA) officially reported. Thus, the European manufacturer has already supplied the Kuwaiti Air Force with 13 of the 28 aircraft ordered.
The first fighter purchased as part of the modernization program was delivered in December 2021, which caused a significant resonance among military experts. The Typhoon acquisition program is being implemented within the framework of Kuwait's cooperation with Italy and includes joint training of pilots, engineers and technical specialists. The Italian Air Force also provides aerial refueling of aircraft using KC-767A tanker aircraft.
On April 5, 2016, the Ministry of Defense of Kuwait signed a contract with Leonardo Group, representing the Eurofighter consortium, for the supply of 28 Typhoon multipurpose fighters. As part of the agreement, the Kuwaiti Air Force will receive 22 single-seat and six two-seat Typhoon aircraft of the Tranche-3 configuration assembled at the Leonardo enterprise in Casella (Italy).
The agreement also includes the provision of services to ensure the use of Typhoons, including the design and construction of infrastructure at the Salem Al-Sabah air base in Kuwait, maintenance of equipment for three years (with an option for five years), supply of equipment and simulators for pilot training in Kuwait. The training of the personnel of the Kuwaiti Air Force is carried out with the participation of the Italian Air Force.
Initially, it was assumed that aircraft deliveries would begin in 2020 and be completed in 2023. But the deadlines were postponed, and the first pair of Typhoon fighters was transferred to the Kuwaiti Air Force at the Caselle air base of the Italian Air Force only on December 7, 2021. The second pair arrived in Kuwait in March, and the third batch in September 2022.
In total, the Eurofighter consortium has received orders for the supply of 661 Typhoon aircraft. In addition to the four participating countries of the project (Italy, Great Britain, Germany and Spain), which purchased a total of 510 Typhoons, the fighter's customers among the Middle East countries are Saudi Arabia (72 aircraft), Oman (12), Kuwait (28) and Qatar (24).
The agreement on military cooperation with Italy involves the supply of weapons to the Kuwaiti army and the holding of joint exercises of the armed Forces of the two countries. However, in the field of military-technical cooperation with the countries of the Persian Gulf, the enterprises of the Italian military-industrial complex have not yet achieved serious success. Basically, activities in this area are limited to the supply of logistics and personal protective equipment in small quantities. The delivery of fighter jets is an exception that only confirms the rule.
Bahrain became the first foreign buyer of AH-1Z Cobra helicopters. Photos from the website www.navy.mil
After a three-year "freeze" of negotiations, the Qatari Armed Forces resume cooperation with Nexter, which offered armored combat vehicles (BBMs) VBCI (Vehicles Blinde de Combat d'Infanterie) as part of a tender for the supply of new armored vehicles to Qatar.
In December 2017, during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Qatar, it was announced the signing of a declaration of intent providing for the supply of 490 BBM VBCI with an 8x8 wheel formula to the Qatari Armed Forces. The negotiations were conducted for about two years. The cost of the project was estimated at $1.94 billion.
At the same time, American, British, French, Norwegian and Belgian firms claimed to supply turrets and other equipment for French armored vehicles. In March 2018, during the DIMDEX arms exhibition in Doha, it was announced that the Norwegian company Kongsberg had been selected as the supplier of turrets and remotely controlled weapon modules for the 490 BBM VBCI-2.
However, since 2018, relations between the Qatari and French authorities have begun to deteriorate due to Paris' neutrality in Qatar's conflict with neighboring states (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain). By the end of 2019, the command of the Qatari Armed Forces began to give preference to the Boxer BBM produced by the ARTEC joint venture, created by the German companies Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. Qatar has previously purchased 62 Leopard-2A7+ tanks, 24 units of 155 mm self-propelled howitzers PzH-2000 and other equipment from Germany.
The Italian company Fincantieri announced the handover ceremony of the Sumaimah corvette of the Al-Zubarah class to the Qatari Navy on May 16, 2023 at the enterprise in Mugiano (La Spezia). The event was attended by the Commander of the Qatari Navy, Major General Abdullah bin Hassan Al Sulaiti.
The Sumaysimah is the fourth and last Al-Zubarah-class corvette ordered by the Qatari Ministry of Defense as part of the national naval modernization program. On June 16, 2016, Fincantieri and MBDA signed contracts with the command of the Qatari Navy for the supply of warships and weapons systems for them in the amount of about 5 billion euros.
Fincantieri's share in the contract is about 4 billion euros. The Italian Leonardo Group supplied artillery systems, radar systems and electronics for the ships. Under the terms of the contract, Fincantieri was to build seven new-generation surface ships, including four corvettes, one amphibious helicopter dock ship (LPD; LPD - Landing Platform Dock), two coastal patrol ships (OPV – Offshore Patrol Vessel), as well as provide related services. All ships are to be built at the Italian shipyard Fincantieri within six years, starting in 2018. The agreement also includes servicing of all ships in Qatar for 10 years after delivery.
Boeing has completed production of 36 F-15QA (Qatar Advanced) multi-role fighters for the Qatar Air Force. According to the Scramble Internet resource.nl, on May 23, the F-15QA Advance Eagle (also known as F-15QA Ababil) with serial number FMS 17-0037 made its first control flight (FCF) at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (Missouri, USA).
This aircraft is one of the last two vehicles from the initial order. Testing of FMS 17-0038 is expected to begin soon. Initially, FMS production numbers for Qatar were reserved in the order from 17-0001 to 17-0036. However, during the assembly process, two aircraft were transferred to the US Air Force as F-15EX 20-0001 and 20-0002. Thus, to fulfill the Qatari order, aircraft with numbers 17-0037 and 17-0038 were added to production.
One of the aircraft (serial number FMS 17-0010) crashed on May 18, 2021 on the runway of Belleville Air Base/Scott (Midamerica Airport, Illinois). The pilots ejected. This fighter is still under repair and it is unlikely that it will be ready for transfer to the Qatari Air Force this year.
By 2024, Boeing will create a training center for the training of flight and technical personnel of the 51st Ababil Squadron ("Flock of Birds") as part of the 5th Air Wing of the Qatar Air Force at Al-Udeid air base. It will also supply spare parts and provide logistical support services in Qatar after the delivery of the aircraft.
According to Indonesian and Israeli resources, Indonesia has signed a contract for the purchase of 12 French–made Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighters withdrawn from the Qatari Air Force (nine single-seat Mirage 2000-5EDA and three two–seat Mirage 2000-5DDA).
It is reported that the aircraft are already being prepared in Qatar for transportation to Indonesia, which will be carried out by An-124 Ruslan transport aircraft (apparently, the Ukrainian airline Antonov Airlines). And that all 12 fighters should be received by the Indonesian side this year. The sale of Mirage 2000-5 fighters from the Qatari Air Force has received approval from the French authorities and will be carried out with the assistance of Defense Conseil International (DCI), a company controlled by the French Ministry of the Armed Forces, which actually plays the role of a state intermediary for the provision of training and technical support services for the export of French weapons. DCI has a separate representative office in Qatar.
According to a number of publications, E-Systems Solutions, a Dubai–based company owned by French businessman and former French Air Force officer Habib Bukharuba, played a key intermediary in the deal between Qatar and Indonesia on fighter jets. After retiring from military service, Bukharuba established a successful business in Dubai, nominally specializing in the sale and rental of cargo aircraft in the Persian Gulf and Africa, but actually engaged in the trade and transportation of weapons and acting as an intermediary in concluding all kinds of transactions in this area. It is alleged that Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subiano is a business partner of Habib Bukharub; apparently, the latter initiated the idea of selling the former Qatari Mirage 2000-5 to Indonesia, eventually achieving the implementation of the deal.
Another international mediator in the Qatar-Indonesia deal was the Czech company Excalibur International, which is part of the Czechoslovak Group of businessman Yaroslav Strnad. It is reported that Excalibur International conducted secret negotiations regarding the financial aspects of the deal, possibly securing its lending from European banks. The value of the contract is not yet known, but in November 2022, the Indonesian Ministry of Finance issued government guarantees to the Indonesian Ministry of Defense in the amount of $734.5 million to seek foreign bank loans to finance the purchase of 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets in Qatar.
The decision to purchase Mirage 2000-5 fighters in Qatar was caused by Indonesia's desire to quickly find a replacement for the Su-35 aircraft that had not been received from Russia, the 2018 contract for the purchase of which was canceled by the Indonesian side under American pressure. Although the Indonesian Air Force initially showed little interest in Qatari fighters, the intervention of Defense Minister Prabowo Subiano played a crucial role in this deal.
12 Qatari Mirage 2000-5 fighters, built in 1997-1998 and in good technical condition, have attracted the attention of a number of potential buyers in recent years. In particular, at one time the Indian Air Force negotiated their purchase, but did not reach an agreement for financial and intra-Indian bureaucratic reasons.
In November 2021, it was reported that an agreement had been reached on the acquisition of these aircraft by the French private company Ares, which intended to provide them on a contract basis to provide combat training services to customers (in particular, the company already had a contract with the French Navy), but in the end the deal also did not take place. In August–September 2022, it was reported that Bulgaria was interested in acquiring or leasing these fighters as a "temporary" solution until it received the ordered American Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70 fighters. But in the end, Indonesia became the buyer of the Qatari Mirage 2000-5.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Negotiations with the UAE on the purchase of American MQ-9B Sea Guardian unmanned aerial vehicles are at an advanced stage. For about 10 years, American defense campaigns have been working closely with the UAE Air Force, primarily within the framework of the MQ-1 program, and UAE leaders have shown interest in acquiring some other American platforms. However, products such as the MQ-1 or MQ-9B UAVs may require a lengthy export permit process.
The MQ-1s can gather intelligence and identify threats, while the MQ-9B are advertised as marine systems providing surveillance and reconnaissance. Given the significant volume of marine traffic in the territorial waters of the UAE, constant awareness of the maritime sphere is crucial for the security of the country. General Atomic officials hope to make progress in integrating their UAVs with low-Earth orbit satellite communications systems in 2023, which can reduce operating costs and reduce hardware load.
The South Korean Defense Procurement agency Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has signed memoranda of understanding with the UAE State Defense and Security Development Fund Tawazun Council on strategic cooperation in the field of defense industry, as well as on the UAE's accession to the implementation of the South Korean aircraft corporation Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) program to create a promising multi-purpose medium aircraft military transport aviation (WTA) MS-X.
Under the terms of the second memorandum, both sides will carry out joint investments, research and technological developments for the MS-X project, which "will contribute to the further development of bilateral cooperation in the military industry." The value of the UAE's planned investments in the MS-X program is estimated by experts at about $ 3.2 billion. This agreement is an integral part of the investment program of several agreements, under which the UAE plans to allocate a total of up to $ 30 billion for the development of the defense and energy sector of South Korea.
It should also be noted that the agreement on the joint development of a new aircraft follows a number of other bilateral agreements between South Korea and the UAE in the field of military-technical cooperation. Thus, the UAE purchased South Korean multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) K239 Chunmu and the KM-SAM Block air defense system.2. A number of experts also believe that the UAE may become a buyer of the South Korean fighter KF-21 Boramae, which is under development.
The Government of Oman announced a 2.7% increase in defense and security spending, despite the recommendations of the relevant committee of the local parliament to reduce them due to falling oil prices.
The 2.7% increase in defense and security spending is the lowest since 2011. In the previous period, defense and security spending almost doubled. During this period, Oman implemented a number of major weapons procurement programs, including agreements for the supply of 12 F-16C/D fighters, 12 Typhoon fighters and eight UBS Hawk AJT. At the end of 2013, a contract worth $ 1.28 billion was signed for the supply of Norwegian NASAMS air defense systems.
CONCLUSIONS AND GENERALIZATIONS
As a result of the analysis of the features of military-technical cooperation in the GCC countries, it is possible to draw the following conclusions:
1. The state and military leadership of the GCC countries continues to implement an approach to equipping national armed forces with mainly Western-made weapons.
2. Current arms purchases are carried out by the countries of the region at a time when their Governments are trying to determine their military and political priorities and strengthen sovereignty in ensuring the protection of their territory.
3. The diversification of sources of arms purchases causes some practical difficulties for users in the Middle East region. For example, the Turkish S-400 complexes cannot be integrated with the NATO air defense system due to the fear of information leakage about the Western-made technical means included in it. Similarly, Middle Eastern buyers of Chinese UAVs faced problems integrating them into Western-made command and control systems.
4. The use of the GCC mixed fleet of weapons in the future until 2025 may have a negative impact on the possibility of conducting joint operations with key Western partners, that is, the United States and NATO countries.
Vasily Ivanovich Ivanov is a journalist.