The two biggest contracts went to Germany's Rohde and Schwarz Gmbh, which will upgrade the Emirati army's communications system at a cost of 528 million dirhams ($144 million), and Italy's Agusta SPA, which will modernise army helicopters at a cost of 261 million dirhams, UAE military procurement chief Brigadier Ubaid al-Kutbi said.

The contracts, modest in comparison with mega deals the UAE signed to acquire US and French military aircraft in the past few years, are expected to be followed by the announcement of more agreements during the five-day International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex 2005).

The third biggest deal unveiled on Sunday went to Jordan, whose King Abd Allah II was in Abu Dhabi to attend the opening of the military show in which more than 900 exhibitors from 50 countries are taking part.

Small deals

Advanced Industries of Arabia Company will sell the UAE
light military vehicles costing 153.7 million dirhams, said al-Kutbi, who is the exhibition's spokesman.

The UAE is to take delivery of the
first batch of 80 F-16 jets in May

France's Rockwell-Collins will supply radars for helicopters worth $12.8 million and the UAE will buy electronic equipment worth $12.7 million from South Africa's Avetronics, Kutbi said.

A number of deals went to local firms. More are expected to be announced during the exhibit, which ends on Thursday.

BAE Systems, which is displaying a series of command vehicles and armoured personnel carriers for the first time since it acquired the land systems from British company Alvis last year, is hoping to sell the UAE an electronic radar warning system for helicopters, a BAE executive said.

"We are discussing a deal with the UAE, which is still in its early stages, under which it would acquire the Hidas," or Helicopter Integrated Defence Aids System, said John Hymns, head of helicopter EW campaigns.

The deal, which is not expected to be announced during the exhibition, would be worth roughly $100 million, he said.

Hymns said Kuwait had already signed up to buy the electronic system in a deal worth about $50 million.

Self-reliance policy

The UAE is due to take delivery in May of the first batch of 80 US-built F-16 Falcon fighters purchased in 2000 for $6.4 billion.

Emiratis are being trained to fly the sophisticated, multi-role "Block 60" fighters at home and in Arizona.

The oil-rich Emirates, in the shadow of Saudi Arabia and Iran, with which it has a dispute over three Gulf islands, had purchased 30 French Mirage 2000-9 combat planes in 1998 as part of a self-reliance policy.

The $3.2-billion contract with France's Dassault included the modernisation of 33 other Mirages.

More than 50 countries are taking part in the seventh Idex fair, where more than 900 exhibitors, including US giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are displaying their wares.

Contracts worth more than one billion dirhams were awarded during the last Idex fair in 2003, with the largest deal worth $116 million helping three Emirati companies to expand two air bases in the country.