A UAE Air Force aircraft at the last Dubai Airshow. The Yemen campaign started Boeing has been working with the United States government to fast-track delivery of military hardware to Arab Gulf governments. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Arab Gulf countries are set to splurge on new military orders at the week-long Dubai Airshow that starts on Sunday as conflicts in Yemen and Syria prompt Gulf nations to replenish their arms.

“There’s going to be a lot of emphasis on defence,” Paul Oliver, Boeing’s top Middle East defence sales executive, told reporters in Dubai on Saturday.

Gulf States Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain have been fighting in Yemen since April 2015 in a campaign against Al Houthi rebels to restore the internally recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Oliver, who is vice-president of International Business Development for the Middle East and Africa at Boeing Defence Space & Security, said since the Yemen campaign started Boeing has been working with the United States government to fast-track delivery of military hardware to Arab Gulf governments.

He said, the Gulf countries are “ramping up” on replenishing weapons, attack rotor aircraft, heavy-lift military aircraft and drones but are also pushing back on other programmes.

“What I’m seeing pushed off are those programmes that they need to replace existing platforms ... They’re deferring the replacement and focusing on keeping what they have flying and operational,” he said.

The conflict in Yemen has come as oil prices, a major source of revenue for Gulf economies, have fallen around 60 per cent since June 2014. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, including the UAE, are also involved in the US-led air strikes against Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in Syria, while Saudi Arabia has been supplying anti-regime rebels with weapons.

Oliver said the demand for drones, or unmanned aerial devices, has accelerated among Gulf buyers since the Gulf nations entered the Yemen conflict.

He did not state the value Boeing could book in military orders this week at the air show, which in previous years has been dominated by commercial aircraft sales to the likes of Emirates Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

He did say, however, that he expects more military orders this year than in the previous three Dubai Airshows he attended.

“I think this year, you’re going to see at least 50:50,” Oliver said of the split between military and commercial orders.

Return to Egypt

Boeing is bullish that the Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi’s ties to the country’s military will help the company land new military sales in the country.

“With the military backing [of the Egyptian government], we’re starting to see an increased dialogue,” Oliver said, adding there potential for support and hardware orders in 2016.

Al Sissi is perceived to be close to the Egyptian military having previously served as chief of Egypt’s armed forces.

Egypt had looked elsewhere after the US temporary cut off foreign military finance to the country. Egypt has bought 24 French-made Dassault Rafale and 46 Russian-made MiG-29 fighters in deals worth close to $10 billion (Dh36.7 billion) when combined so far this year.

Oliver said he believes the temporary removal of US funding “was a factor” in Egypt’s move to purchase non-US jets but that “the relationship [between Egypt and the US] is back on track.”