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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Regional Scan: Middle East & Africa

By Woodrow Bellamy III

Thales, Qatar to Develop OPV-A

Thales, Qatar Air Force officials sign MOU to develop OPV-A. Photo: Thales
Thales announced a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Qatar Armed Forces to assist in the development of an Optionally Piloted Vehicle-Aircraft (OPV-A). The Qatar Armed Forces will select the OPV-A airframe to be integrated with a mission systems capability. OPV-A is a hybrid between a conventional manned aircraft and an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Thales says.

“They are able to fly with or without a pilot on board the aircraft. Unimpeded by a human’s physiological limitations, an OPV is able to operate under more adverse conditions and/or for greater endurance times. Retaining on-board controls, the OPV can operate as a conventional aircraft during missions for which direct human control is preferred or desired as an immediate option,” according to Thales.

 Etihad Airways Plans Fleet Renewal in 2014

Etihad Airways reported a 48 percent increase in its annual profit with a record $62 million. The airline recorded a total of $6.1 billion in revenue last year, driven mostly by its minority investments into several carriers around the globe, including a 29 percent stake in Germany’s Air Berlin, a 24 percent stake in India’s Jet Airways and a 20 percent stake in Virgin Australia.

According to James Hogan, CEO of Etihad Airways, the company is cautiously considering making an investment as large as a 49 percent share of ownership in Italy’s struggling Alitalia which last year was involved in a $688 million buyout plan that gave 12 percent of the airline to the Italian government.

The profits reflect the Middle Eastern market’s emergence as a major aviation hub in recent years, with government backed carriers such as Etihad and Emirates investing in modernizing their commercial fleets with modern aircraft and adding more destinations throughout Europe and around the globe. Recent global air traffic reports from IATA have consistently indicated the highest growth rates coming from Middle Eastern carriers. In 2014 Etihad plans to introduce 18 new aircraft, including a Boeing 787 and Airbus A380, along with nine new destinations in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Turkish Air Force Acquires AIDEWS Systems for F-16s

AIDEWS hardware is identical, whether internal to aircraft or pod mounted as shown. Photo: Exelis
Exelis is providing its Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (AIDEWS) systems for the Turkish Air Force fleet of F-16 fighter jets under a new $36 million U.S. foreign military sales contract. Turkey will receive the external pod variant of the AIDEWS system, the ALQ-211(V)9, the counterpart to the internal ALQ-211(V)4 system. Exelis provided the ALQ-211(V)4 to Turkey under a separate contract in 2009, and now the country is ready for the external version.

Joe Rambala, VP and GM of Exelis’ integrated electronic warfare systems business, says the AIDEWS is necessary for the Turkish Air Force to upgrade its electronic warfare capabilities. The system can be configured to provide fighter pilots with both integrated radar warning and RF countermeasures, as well as advanced stand-alone radar warning.

 ViaSat, EL AL Sign Connectivity Agreement

EL AL will be the Middle East-based launch customer for ViaSat’s Exede in-flight connectivity service. The two companies are currently working toward certification and installation of the Exede terminals on EL AL aircraft, targeting a launch of the service in 2015. ViaSat plans to deploy the service on EL AL Boeing 737s flying from Tel Aviv to European destinations.

“As we introduce Exede in-flight service outside North America, we expect the same enthusiastic response we’ve seen since our launch in the U.S.,” said Mark Dankberg chairman and CEO of ViaSat.

Military Avionics Demand Boosts Elbit Revenue

Elbit Systems reported 2013 revenue numbers of $2.93 billion, up from $2.89 billion the previous year. Increasing demand in Israel for avionics systems, command and control systems and maintenance services helped with the increase in revenue.

“Recently, we implemented some organizational changes to enhance our market position in the areas of cyber and intelligence systems as well as commercial avionics systems. We consider both of these areas as growth engines,” said Bezhalel Machlis, president and CEO of Elbit Systems.

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