UAE army announces $1.27B contract for surveillance aircraft
The "Frecce Tri Colori" Italian Air Force aerobatic display team perform during the opening of the Dubai Airshow in Dubai - AP

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The United Arab Emirates on Monday announced a $1.27 billion deal for upgraded Saab surveillance systems aboard new Bombardier aircraft that the Gulf Arab country has acquired.

Saab said the deal is for a new version of its Erieye radar system for the Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft.

The value of the deal is the largest announced so far at the biennial Dubai Airshow, which runs until Thursday. The show is taking place at Dubai’s newest airport, the Al Maktoum International.

Also Monday, Lockheed Martin announced it has been awarded a $262.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to service Saudi Arabia’s F-15 sniper targeting system, search and track sensors and radars that allow for day and night low-level navigation.

Embraer Defense & Security announced Lebanon would be acquiring six A-29 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft, a sale that was approved by the U.S. State Department in June. The deal includes logistics support for the aircraft, which are used in light air support missions, and training for Lebanese pilots and mechanics. The company did not disclose the value of the deal.

The sales reflect a shift in focus at the airshow this year from civil aviation to defense aviation needs. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been leading the war in Yemen against the country’s Shiite rebels since March and are part of the U.S.-led coalition bombing the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Despite a drop in oil prices and subsequently lower revenue for Gulf Arab countries, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are not expected to cut back on defense spending in the coming years. The kingdom and its rival Iran are backing opposite sides of the war in Syria and support opposing political groups in Lebanon and Bahrain. In Yemen, Iran has given political support to the Shiite rebels, though it denies Saudi accusations that it has provided them with arms.

Compared with the last 2013 airshow, which included announcements of $140 billion in Boeing and Airbus orders by four major Gulf carriers, this year’s event has been largely a chance for Gulf carriers to showcase their new planes and for international businesses to meet potential aviation and aerospace clients in the region.

Meanwhile, India’s Jet Airways announced Monday its largest fleet order to date for 75 Boeing 737 Max aircraft to support its replacement strategy. The short-haul aircraft will likely be mostly used by Jet Airways in its flights to Gulf destinations in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia. The UAE’s Abu Dhabi-based carrier, Etihad, owns a 24 percent stake in Jet Airways.

There was no information available on the price tag on the Jet deal and officials did not immediately respond to questions on the order.

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