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Russia’s Su-35 fighter to fly at Dubai Airshow, increasing UAE deal speculation

Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35 will fly at next week’s Dubai Airshow, organisers said, adding to speculation that talks with the United Arab Emirates on a sale of the multi-role fighter jet have progressed.

Various deals for fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft have been mooted ahead of the show, including recent reports that the Trump administration may be considering entering preliminary talks with the UAE over F-35 joint strike fighter.

Su-35 deal to be announced?

In early October, Russia’s TASS reported that the UAE wanted to buy more than a squadron of the Su-35 jets from United Aircraft Corporation, and that a contract may be signed before the end of the year.

“They want a lot, over a squadron but the exact number will be specified in the course of negotiations that may be held in November during an air show in Dubai,” an unnamed source in the system of military and technical cooperation told TASS.

A squadron is usually 12 planes. In November 2016, Interfax reported that Russia planned to sell 24 Su-35 jets to UAE, while in April, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov reportedly said talks were ongoing to supply “dozens” of Su-35 aircraft.

F-35 talks under consideration

According to Defense News, the Trump administration has agreed to consider preliminary talks on UAE procurement of the F-35 as part of a wider U.S. strategy for enhanced strategic cooperation with the Gulf nation.

The Obama administration refused requests since 2011 for a classified briefing on the F-35, citing the U.S. commitment to Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. The Trump administration intends to uphold QME commitments, but seeks to build on the U.S.-UAE Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in Washington in May during Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s meetings with President Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

“The Trump team has agreed to consider the request. It’s not a ‘yes’ yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen once the dust settles,” a former Pentagon official told Defense News, referring to the dispute between Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

New Russia/UAE fifth-generation light fighter

On February 20, Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Russia’s Rostec, said the UAE had signed an outline agreement to buy Su-35s and to work with Russia to develop a fifth-generation “brand new fighter” that could enter service around 2025, Bloomberg reported. Chemezov said the new aircraft would be built in the UAE. According to Rostec, the new “light fighter aircraft”  is expected to be a variant of the MiG-29.

The same day, Manturov said that an agreement between Russia and the UAE had been signed, TASS reported.

“We’ve signed an agreement on industrial cooperation in the field of military engineering. This will enable us to push ahead with the fifth-generation-jet project, in which the UAE will participate,” Manturov said.

Yuri Slyusar, head of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, told TASS that early work was underway for the new light fifth-generation aircraft, and that both Sukhoi and MiG would contribute to the project.

“We are working on proposals addressed to the UAE. We believe it will be a good plane. We are prepared to present the results of our R&D efforts to our counterparts,” Slyusar said.

“We have not formulated the concept of a fifth-generation jet so far. We are still undecided if it is going to be a single-engine or twin engine plane. The agreement signed enables us to start that work,” he added.

Russian Knights to fly in Dubai

The Dubai Airshow takes place from November 12 to 16.

The Russian Knights aerial display team will also fly in Sukhoi SU30Ms, and China’s PLAAF August 1st Air Demonstration Team will perform in J10As. Other aircraft to fly include U.S. Air Force F16, UAE Mirage 2000, French Air Force Dassault Rafale, the Taqnia An-132 turboprop military transport aircraft developed jointly by Saudi Arabia and Ukraine, and the Turkey-built T129 ATAK multi-role attack helicopter developed byTurkish Aerospace Industries and AgustaWestland.

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