Dubai: The United Arab Emirates’ largest defence conglomerate plans to equip the nation’s new Rafale F4 fighter jets with a subsidiary’s precision-guided munitions, in what would be a first for the French-made jet and also India’s HAL Tejas fighter jet exhibited here is also equipped with Al Tariq precision guided munitions, in a move to convince the Indian military to give it a shot after testing.
“This will be a limited integration,” said Al Tariq CEO Theunis Botha adding “but serving the purpose of demonstrating the capabilities of one the aircraft integration between the two companies and the performance of the alternate weapon system.” He said the testing in India is expected to take place in early 2024, “and we hope to have it completed by third quarter of 2024.”
Three different munitions — the Mk81, Mk82 and longer-range Mk83 bombs that EDGE subsidiary Al Tariq modifies into precision-guided missiles — will all be integrated on the fourth generation plane in due course, Botha said.
“The entire family of Al Tariq is being integrated onto all the Rafale fleet to the UAE,” he said and so fulfilling a requirement by the Emirati air force for indigenous weapons to be fitted to the combat jet. “We are in discussions with them to team for this integration and contracts are already in place,” added Botha. “The first Rafale aircraft will be delivered around 2027, and we would be in time to have the integration completed by that time.”
He also said he “hopes” Al Tariq and Dassault, the French firm that makes the Rafale family of fighter jets, can reach agreement on approval for other Rafale users to equip their respective fleets with Al Tariq weapons.
The Al Tariq precision-guided versions of the Mk81 and Mk82 munitions were both displayed beside a French Air and Space Force Rafale FR3 aircraft. Al Tariq’s modular precision guidance system fits on the Mk80 series, turning their short-range munitions into Al Tariq-S and the long-range ones Al-Tariq-LR missiles.
The Emirates is set to become the first F4 operator outside of France, with delivery of 80 aircraft originally scheduled to run from 2026 to 2031 in a deal worth a massive $19 billion. Botha’s remark about deliveries starting in 2027 suggests this initial timeline may be a bit off track.
France announced the order from Abu Dhabi in December 2021, which remains Dassault’s largest ever. But for the UAE, the acquisition also signalled a committed effort to modernize strike capabilities, set against the threat of Iran and its regional proxies.