Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2019-05-01

Empowering UAE Nationals Through Technology

For more than 45 years, Northrop Grumman has grown its presence and expanded the support it offers to customers, industry partners and universities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as other Middle East countries. In 2016, Walid Abukhaled was named chief executive, Northrop Grumman Middle East, in order to oversee company interests across the entire Middle East region, with specific emphasis on Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Abukhaled shares with Nation Shield his perceptions on regional security, key partnerships with the region and how Northrop Grumman can make the region safer for all.
 
By: Sakha Promod
 
 
More than doing business, Northrop Grumman has succeeded in forging partnerships in the Middle East. Can you tell us briefly about the same?
When you say partnership, most people think of joint ventures or business transaction partnerships. We don’t see it this way at all. When we say partnership, we want to be fully embedded with the community; working with people who possess great capabilities to execute projects locally. More importantly, we always look at the youth, since here in the Middle East, the future is with the youth. 
 
At the same time, we also look at how we can encourage women to be business leaders in the aerospace and defence industry. Northrop Grumman is a top global company when it comes to diversity and inclusion. We believe that having teams made up of people with different backgrounds, experiences and abilities leads to better business outcomes. So, we are making the same efforts to support diversity and inclusion in the Middle East.  
 
How has knowledge transfer helped to involve Arab nationals in your workforce particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia?
We have many partnerships with universities in both Saudi Arabia and UAE. We develop programmes to attract students to science and technology. In June 2017, we partnered with Khalifa University’s Masdar Institute to offer a master’s degree programme in space systems and technology to give students the opportunity to construct, test and launch satellites.

It is one of our most successful partnership programmes here; about 20 students have already graduated from this programme. The Space Lab students recently designed a cube satellite (CubeSat), sized 10 cm by 10 cm, called MYSat 1, which was launched into orbit in November 2018 to take images and send text messages.

The students are already working on MYSat 2 with increased capabilities as part of our industry-academia collaboration to produce knowledge transfer.

To support the UAE’s desire to grow advanced technologies, Emirati project managers and engineers worked side-by-side with Northrop Grumman engineers in our U.S. facility to design and build UAE’s first major telecommunications satellite, Al Yah 3. The Emirati engineers were leading at each stage of the design and build process.

Al Yah 3 was launched in January 2018, and provides high-speed internet access to some of the most isolated communities in parts of Africa and South America. The Northrop Grumman team will continue to partner with the UAE on their next generation satellites.
 
In Saudi Arabia, we do slightly different programmes. For example, we partner with King Abdullah University for Science and Technology to encourage the youth to take up science and technology education and careers. Last year we supported an Innovation Challenge event for more than 300 Saudi students from 16 universities. The three-day event focused on creating solutions for regional and global challenges in cybersecurity, supply chain localisation and the environment. 
 
Your products have great potential in this region; how has the market scenario been?
Northrop Grumman considers the Middle East a growth region. We have several focus countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where we have a local presence and offer our products and solutions to local customers. Having two focus countries in the Middle East shows how important this region is to Northrop Grumman.
 
To give an example, Northrop Grumman recently concluded a deal to provide the Joint Threat Emitter, an advanced electronic warfare simulation capability, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This capability provides a simulated battlespace environment to help train soldiers to identify and effectively counter enemy missiles or artillery threats without taking the soldiers directly into a live environment.
 
You highlighted land, air, sea and space capabilities at IDEX 2019. How were they received?
IDEX is a valuable show for us in this region. Given the current threat environment in the Middle East, our technologically advanced products were well received.

Northrop Grumman acquired Orbital ATK in 2018, and now they are part of the company as the Innovation Systems sector. To be honest, it is a very fitting name because they have some of the most innovative products you can imagine, from advanced commercial satellites to launch vehicles.

IDEX 2019 was the first major opportunity to showcase our Innovation Systems sector’s work in the Middle East. Overall, we had great engagements with key customers across the Middle East region and there have been ongoing discussions since. 
 
Do you think you will continue to provide strategic site advanced protection to companies in the region?
We have two focus countries here in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are considered some of the safest in the world. Unfortunately, parts of the surrounding region are not as stable. So, strategic site protection is a priority for the governments in both these countries. Northrop Grumman’s systems play a key role in detecting threats before they become a real danger.
 
Do you think Northrop Grumman can play a crucial role in ensuring peace in the region?
Our current work in the Middle East is designed to enhance the defence capabilities of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. As with all our customers, Northrop Grumman offers products, systems and solutions that support our customer’s requirements and at the end of the day, they need to perform as intended.
 
How are your products like AN/AAQ-24(V) DIRCM (Directional Infrared Countermeasure) and Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) Solution received in the region?
We provide truly unique solutions when it comes to infrared countermeasure. Our laser-based directional infrared countermeasure (DIRCM) systems protect more than 1,500 aircraft, including large and small fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and tilt-rotor platforms. A DIRCM system is required to defeat the latest advanced infrared threats and it has a lower life cycle cost compared to other infrared countermeasure approaches. This type of product is extremely well received in the region.
 
Can you tell us about your contribution as a key subcontractor for the F-16 Desert Falcon?
The F-16 Desert Falcon is one of the most advanced F-16s in the world. We are proud that Northrop Grumman’s APG-80 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar is on the F-16. The APG-80 radar is designed to search continuously for and track multiple targets. Additional advances of the radar include much greater detection range and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar imagery.
 
What is your long term vision for the region?
We are optimistic about future business opportunities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Northrop Grumman will continue to partner with the governments, local companies, universities and other organisations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE to provide innovative technologies. I believe that our capabilities, along with local knowledge and very talented youth, position us well for the future.
 

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