UAE Air Force Orders B-250 Light Combat Aircraft

For the first time, the UAE Air Force (UAEAF) has ordered a domestically produced aircraft. The order is for 24 B-250 light combat aircraft to be produced by Calidus at a cost of $620 million. Currently, the UAEAF operates 6 AT-802Is and 24 S2R Archangels as counter-insurgency aircraft which have proven useful thanks to long loiter time, low operating costs, and ease of maintenance. However, both of these are built around agricultural aircraft and are incredibly slow.

The B-250 is much faster and more agile (with a 520 km/h cruise speed vs. 340 km/h) while still being cheap and easy to maintain. Its lineage can be traced to the well respected Super Tucano which is currently being evaluated by the USAF as a light attack aircraft. These two aircraft were designed by the same individual, a Brazilian named Joseph Kovács. Working for Novaer in Brazil, Kovács developed the aircraft on behalf of Calidus. So while the aircraft was domestically funded it was not domestically designed and has yet to be actually produced in the UAE.

One of the B-250 prototypes during flight testing in the UAE. Photo: Calidus

There are currently two flying prototypes, however, both were built in Brazil by Novaer and then transported to Dubai for the 2019 airshow. The ability to produce aircraft is one of the hallmarks of a technologically advanced nation and is not an undertaking to be taken lightly. If the UAE can pull it off it will earn a great deal of respect on the world stage.

The B-250 uses a structure made of carbon fiber which will make the aircraft much lighter than other planes in the same class albeit at a greater cost. Subsystems such as avionics and the electro-optic sensor are provided by Rockwell Collins in the US. Notably, at the Dubai Airshow, the aircraft was shown off with domestically produced Desert Sting and Thunder munitions which we covered previously. If both these projects come to fruition the UAE will be unique amongst the Gulf Arab states in the ability to produce its own aircraft armed with its own munitions.