By Andrea Shalal-Esa
DUBAI, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Northrop Grumman Corp hopes to expand its ties to the United Arab Emirates in coming years, including the potential sale of its E-2D airborne early warning radar planes, the company's new chief executive for the UAE said on Saturday.
"There are incredible opportunities here," Douglas Raaberg, a former senior U.S. Air Force official who joined Northrop in 2010, told Reuters in an interview after the Dubai International Air Chiefs conference. Raaberg was named last month as Northrop's first chief executive officer for UAE.
Raaberg said foreign officials who spoke at the conference underscored growing international demand for unmanned vehicle technology, cybersecurity solutions, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, and logistics systems -- all areas in which Northrop had a strong position.
Northrop, Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin and other U.S. weapons makers are scrambling to drum up foreign orders as the Pentagon prepares for a cut of over $1 trillion in projected military spending in coming years.
Northrop, one of the big U.S. arms makers with the least foreign orders, has a range of equipment and offerings in each of the areas drawing international interest, said Raaberg.
Raaberg has held several key Air Force jobs in the region during his 30-year military career, including heading U.S. Central Command's air and space operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. He will be based in Abu Dhabi.
Raaberg said his job was to help strengthen Northrop's relations with UAE leaders and convey their military and civilian equipment needs to top company leaders in Washington.
The Falls Church, Virginia-based weapons maker already has close ties to the region through its work on an F-16 upgrade program, and its support of Navy and Air Force unmanned systems such as the high-flying Global Hawk spy plane that operate in the region.
"The one thing we don't want to do is just come and sell something. What we want to do is really bring the partnership with it. That partnership will last for decades," he said.
One of the key products Northrop hopes to sell to UAE leaders is a new airborne early warning (AEW) platform, as well a range of unmanned vehicles and training services.
The U.S. government approved the sale of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye to UAE some time ago, but UAE's procurement process has dragged on for many years.
UAE decided in 2009 to buy two Saab 340 turboprop aircraft as an interim-solution and put off the decision for some time.
Boeing is also competing for the UAE order with a 737-based platform that includes Northrop's multi-role electronically scanned array radar.
Jerry Spruill, a senior Northrop executive, said Washington years ago approved possible foreign sales of the E-2D aircraft, which was approved for full-rate production in February.
The company also hopes to sell the system to current users of its earlier E-2C early warning radar plane, including Japan, Egypt, Taiwan and France.
Northrop has delivered 10 of the new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye planes to the U.S. Navy, and is under contract for 20 more. The U.S. government plans to buy 75 of the new ground controls in the years ahead.
Spruill said it made sense for foreign countries to buy E-2D planes now since added orders and increasing production for the U.S. Navy would help lower the price of the planes.