UAE invests heavily in unmanned weapons after drone attacks

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The United Arab Emirates is ploughing money into drones, robots and other unmanned weaponry as autonomous warfare becomes more and more wide-spread — including in attacks on the Gulf country by Yemeni rebels.

Large, black drones with the orange logo of EDGE, the UAE’s arms consortium, were on dis-play at the Unmanned Systems Exhibition (UMEX), along with remote-controlled machineguns and other “smart” weapons.

The exhibition comes at a time of growing un-manned attacks around the region, including the Jan 17 drone-and-missile assault by Yemen rebels that killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi, the first in a series of similar incidents. EDGE, an Abu Dhabi-based defence consortium that groups 25 Emirati firms, was formed three years ago but reached an estimated $4.8 billion in arms sales in 2020 — nearly all of them to the UAE government.

The group was ranked 23rd among the 100 top arms-producing and military services around the globe in 2020, according to the Stockholm Interna-tional Peace Research Institute. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels since 2015. Although it withdrew ground troops in 2019, it remains a key player in the grinding conflict.

EDGE’s most lucrative deals have included maintenance of military jets, worth almost $4 bil-lion, as well as providing guided munitions at $880 million.

On Tuesday, it unveiled a vehicle-mounted re-mote-controlled assault rifle that can swivel 360 degrees and has thermal imaging and a laser range finder accurate to 50 centimetres for targets more than two kilometres away.—AFP

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