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The UAE’s enormous defense spending 27, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, The Emirates.
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F-16E fighter jet

It has been announced that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the third largest weapons importer in the world after China and India, according to the Swedish think tank SIPRI. Furthermore, as the Al Jazeera article reveals, that means that that UAE is importing over a third of the entire Middle East’s arms. Considering that this includes Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran, this is massively surprising. The UAE apparently bought 80 F-16E combat aircraft from America in addition to 50 Mirage fighter jets from France in the last four years alone. In an astounding bit of analysis, Al Jazeera’s correspondent suggested that this was of the UAE’s proximity to Iran.

This means that – if you’ll excuse some serious rounding up and generally inaccurate figures – that, per capita the UAE spend around $1750 per year on arms, where as China spend $8.72 and India $9.58. I think you’ll agree that the numbers are so vastly different that a few thousand (even million) either which way in terms of populations or arms estimates will not make any difference: either which way, the UAE are spending a huge amount for such a small country.

One last point: who is going to fly the planes and drive the tanks? I realise that there will, no doubt, be many UAE pilots in the US, for example, training away, but what happens when they get back? I spoke to a UK army advanced tactics tank commander in Kuwait where he was teaching the Kuwaitis which end of the tank is which. He was astounded at just how uncommitted and poor the elite of the Kuwaiti army were. The didn’t turn up to class, left half way through etc etc. Needless to say, if you did that in the British Army you’d be off to the glasshouse. Does the same thing apply to the UAE army and air-force? I fear it might. Such issues, apparently afflict the Saudi army too: all the toys that the American arsenal can give, but no dedicated or capable troops to use them.

Picture: F16-E Fighter jet