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UPDATE 1-UAE weapons maker EDGE wants in on F-35 supply chain

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Alexander Cornwell
·3 min read
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(Adds EDGE, Lockheed agreement)

By Alexander Cornwell

ABU DHABI, Feb 23 (Reuters) - United Arab Emirates'state-owned weapons maker EDGE expects to be involved in thesupply chain of Lockheed Martin's F-35 war plane if thesale of U.S. planes to the Gulf Arab state goes ahead, its chiefexecutive said on Tuesday.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is re-examiningthe sale of 50 F-35 stealth jets, 18 armed drones and othermilitary equipment approved by former President Donald Trumpduring his last days in office.

"Any platform that is coming to the country, we are nowgetting heavily involved in this supply chain in whatevercomponent that makes sense for the client and for us," EDGE CEOFaisal al-Bannai said at Abu Dhabi's Idex defence exhibition.

EDGE, a $5 billion state defence conglomerate, couldintegrate subsystems, products and weapons, perform maintenance,repair and overhaul (MRO) work and also develop weapons such asmissiles for the jet, he said.

EDGE and Lockheed later announced in a statement they hadreached a preliminary agreement to jointly "explore industrialparticipation opportunities across the UAE's aerospace anddefence industry."

The statement did not mention the F-35 or any other system.

The Gulf state, one of Washington’s closest Middle Easternallies, was promised a chance to buy the war planes when itestablished formal ties with Israel last year.

EDGE was in "advanced discussion" with several Israelidefence companies about jointly funding and developing missilesand unmanned platforms, Bannai said without identifying thefirms.

"Quite soon there will be announcements," he said.

It is not clear when Washington will complete its review,though even if approved the first F-35 is not expected to bedelivered for several years.

"Every country has their own process. I think they will gothrough their process and come to what is a right decision forthem," Bannai said of the U.S. review.

The UAE's Ambassador to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba has saidhe is confident the sale would go through.

The jets are a major component of a $23 billion sale ofhigh-tech armaments from General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corpand Raytheon Technologies Corp to the UAE.

The F-35, the world's most advanced war plane, would givethe UAE a "huge deterrence capability" against regional foeIran, an Arab diplomat in the Gulf told Reuters.

"The F-35 gives a lot of control over the Gulf skies. It's abig thing. It's a game changer for the UAE," the diplomat said.

EDGE, tasked with supplying advanced weapons to the UAEarmed forces, is focused on developing drones, unmannedvehicles, smart weapons and electronic warfare equipment ratherthan conventional weaponry.

"We are a small country in size and population ... we areextremely focused on deploying more smarter technology that canapply a 'force multiplier' to our army," Bannai said.

EDGE is developing a directed energy system, to be unveilednext year, that can be used against aerial and land threats.

EDGE announced on Tuesday it would supply Rheinmetall'sOerlikon Skynex air defence system with a short-rangeinterceptor missile system known as SkyKnight.(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Susan Fenton)