The UAE defense industry has built-up important technical and industrial capacities in a relatively short timescale – the past ten years representing phenomenal growth – placing it in a position to compete with international contractors for undertaking advanced projects. Among other areas, the UAE defense industry has built proficiency in the manufacture of articles such as light weapons and ammunition, rockets and artillery, shipbuilding, tactical remotely piloted vehicles (RPA), and armored vehicles. UAE contractors today offer a growing number of support services in logistics as well as maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) across a range of military and civilian platforms and systems. One of the most important developments however is taking place in the field of electronics and systems engineering, where a number of UAE contractors are able to take on increasingly complex projects in the area of systems integration and communications technologies. Separately, strategically placed centers of excellence are infusing a permanent research, development, and innovation capability and fostering knowledge creation and technical expertise by enabling Emirati minds within and outside the military to collaborate with high caliber international consultants to drive long-term development and offer a conduit for exploring, adopting, and stress-testing new concepts and technologies for the UAE Armed Forces.
Centers of excellence represent the top-end of a value chain in technical capacity-building with human resources beneath which a growing number of UAE-based universities and institutions continue to develop tailored higher education, vocational training, and research programs in areas such as electronics, systems engineering, and the computer sciences, to feed into the system.
It is this developing network and nexus of technical and industrial capacities that will combine with the strategic asset acquisitions, rising operator skillsets and proficiencies at home, and application of lessons learned from operational engagements with regional and international allies to build the core competencies, which will carry defense transformation in the UAE Armed Forces towards its networked future. Keeping an eye on the emerging environment, the UAE leadership is also undertaking steps to place the nation at the regional forefront of cybersecurity efforts – a critical requisite for developing towards increasingly network-based operations. The establishment of the National Electronic Security Agency (NESA) will develop, oversee and assure national standards in ICT and network security – the National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS), Critical Information Infrastructure Policy (CIIP) and The UAE Information Assurance (IA) Standards represent the first steps of these long-term efforts.
In order to maximize gains from new generations of skilled youth and as a way to strengthen national unity and immunity among its young men and women against misguided ideologies being spread by terrorist groups, the UAE has also embarked on a conscription program since this year. Under this program, thousands of young UAE men will serve in the armed forces for a year before becoming part of a military reserve force that will enhance the national readiness against the nature of threats that now rapidly spreading around the region.
Over time, the UAE Armed Forces will grow a national reserve force composed of UAE citizens that will be able to support the regular forces whenever national duty calls. As such, the UAE is successfully setting its armed forces on a trajectory that offers considerable promise and potential in terms of development outlook far beyond the picture captured by analyses that are limited to measuring tangible metrics such as expenditure trends and major acquisition schedules. It is also an outlook that will benefit the region and allies of the UAE, for it strengthens the future of a model for national growth and development that the UAE has worked so hard to build since 1971. It is a model that is based on investing as much in manpower together with technology, and in being an international force of moderation that supports global peace and stability and uses its wealth to ensure social justice at home and providing assistance to the needy outside.