With the UAE extending its influence across the Middle East, the small Gulf state — dubbed "Little Sparta" by US officials — has long held ambitions to become a major player in the arms industry. Yesterday, the Emirates took a major step towards this goal with the launch of a new defence company which will become the largest military enterprise in the country.
Inaugurated by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the new company is called EDGE, and brings together more than 25 different Emirati entities, it was reported by Army Technology.
"EDGE includes subsidiaries of Emirates Defence Industries Company (EDIC), Emirates Advanced Investments Group (EAIG), Tawazun Holding and other companies," said the news site dedicated to covering the latest development in military hardware. "Employing around 12,000 people, it will focus on five different 'clusters': Platforms and Systems; Missiles and Weapons; Cyber Defence; Electronic Warfare and Intelligence; and Mission Support."
The main goal of EDGE is to develop weapons to fight "hybrid warfare" and to bolster the UAE's defence against unconventional threats, focusing on electronic attacks and drones.
"The solution to address hybrid warfare lies at the convergence of innovations from the commercial world and the military industry," explained EDGE CEO and Managing Director Faisal Al Bannai. "Established with a core mandate to disrupt an antiquated military industry generally stifled by red tape, EDGE is set to bring products to market faster and at more cost-effective price points."
The chief executive officer of UAE defence enabler Tawazun Economic Council spoke about the future threats and the uncertainty brought about by new technology. "We are invested in managing the uncertainty that technology brings by adapting our focus and capabilities towards a sustainable defence and security industry," he said. "EDGE will help us transform our domestic capabilities while growing our engagements on defence and security exports."
With the UAE currently importing most of its weapons from western countries, the launch of EDGE will be seen as a major step towards reducing its reliance on the likes of the US and Britain, where there are strong calls to cancel arms exports to Gulf states due to concerns over human rights abuses and allegations of war crimes in Yemen. The UAE is a key ally of Saudi Arabia in the devastating war with Houthi rebels in Yemen. It has been alleged that forces loyal to the Emirates have sexually abused inmates in the war, the consequences of which have been described by the UN as the worst humanitarian disaster since the Second World War.