22 December 2015

UAE, Saudi Arabia operating Chinese UAVs over Yemen

Jeremy Binnie, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, 17 December 2015

This UAV at Saudi Arabia's Jizan Regional Airport on 10 July is probably a CH-4 as the UAE has yet to receive the first of the Predator XPs it has ordered. Source: DigitalGlobe/Google Earth
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have both acquired Chinese-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to meet urgent operational requirements arising from their military intervention in Yemen, it was revealed during a panel discussion held by the Atlantic Council think tank on 8 December.

"The drones the UAE is using in Yemen are Chinese because they failed to get US approval," US Marine Corps General (retired) James L Jones said. Gen Jones served as National Security Advisor in 2009-2010 and is now affiliated with the Atlantic Council.
Nawaf Obaid, a former advisor to the Saudi ambassadors to the United Kingdom and the United States, immediately added "that is true, us too", indicating Saudi Arabia has also acquired Chinese UAVs because it could not obtain US ones.

"[The UAVs are] an example of things we could have done, but we didn't do, and now people who are more agile have been able to send drones to the UAE," Jones said. "We have a serious problem in the way and the speed with which we come to the aid of our friends and allies with equipment."
The third member of the panel, Barry Pavel, the director of the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center, agreed, saying, "All our Gulf partners want US weapons, they are the best in the world … but it is a really, really difficult process [to obtain them]. If you can't get that wonderful jewel on the shelf, but you can get fake jewellery that still does the job, you are going to start to go in that direction because you are in active operations and you need this equipment."

"We need to get our act together, streamline and make our processes more effective," Pavel added.

When asked about the problems in the US arms export process, Jones identified the end-use monitoring agreements system as "something that most of our allies really dislike".

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