Defense sector analysts see a growing market for warplanes among Middle East nations over the next five years despite slumping oil prices in recent years.
During the Dubai Airshow, which runs from November 12 to November 16, plenty of aircraft manufacturers will be angling to sell their aircraft to attendees.
In recent years, Bahrain, Morocco, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been shelling out cash left and right to grow their air forces.
“A lot of these contracts have come to completion,” Derek Bisaccio, analyst at Forecast International, tells Defense News. “They’ve started signing orders. They’ve been approved. So that does limit what they need to be purchasing for the time being.”
To name a few, In March, US President Donald Trump lifted an arms embargo on Bahrain based on state-sponsored human rights abuses, thus allowing a deal for 19 F-16 jets to move forward. In June, Qatar and the US signed off on a $12 billion deal for F-15s.
“What I think is notable is that a lot of these countries feel they need to get more.
They definitely have the budgets for it, the resources for it, even with the collapse of energy prices,” Bisaccio told Defense News.
The Teal Group’s Richard Aboulafia expects Middle East nations to buy at least 245 “new-build,” versus modernized or refurbished, aircraft in the next five years.
The question is who will supply them. The biggest suppliers of combat aircraft are overwhelmingly the US and Russia. In descending order, the F-16, F-18, Su-27, F-15, MiG-29, MiG-21 and Su-25 have been the top 7 sellers worldwide since production started for each plane, according to Motley Fool.
France has carved out an interesting niche in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region too. Jordan flies French-made Mirages, and Dassault Rafale fighters are “top contenders” for the next UAE, Bahraini, Jordanian and Kuwaiti contracts, according to a Defense News infographic. Further, Egypt and France held discussions October 24 regarding the potential sale of 12 new Rafales, according to Bisaccio.
Israel is on pace to buy 50 fifth-generation F-35s, and the first F-35I Nadirs are slated to become operational in just under a month. The UAE may become the first Middle East partner not named Israel to get approval to buy F-35s after the Trump administration decided to “consider” a longstanding request from Abu Dhabi.
Since January 20, the Pentagon and State Department approved aircraft sales of F/A-18 Super Hornets to Canada, F-16Vs to Bahrain, A-29 Super Tucanos to Nigeria, C-17s to India, MD 530 choppers and weaponized Air Tractors to Kenya, P-8A Poseidons to New Zealand, Bell 429s to Slovakia, CH-47Ds to Greece, and Apache attack helicopters to Kuwait, according to a Global Security review of public filings.