The 2023 Dubai Airshow just wrapped up and hosted an amazingly diverse group of countries, government delegations, commercial aviation companies and defense industrial businesses. At the airshow, Steve Trimble, Defense Editor of Aviation Week, shared with me that there are very few places in the world that an airstrip can exhibit a flying display of a Lockheed Martin F-35, a Chinese Chengdu J-10 and a Russian Sukhoi Su-35. The Dubai Airshow is the place where this highly unusual occurrence of these diverse fighter jets could share a common runway.
In addition to the fantastic aircraft flying display, the Dubai Airshow highlighted several important industry trends and issues. The first was and probably most important highlight was the resurgence of widebody aircraft demand and order. The surging demand and optimism was tempered a little bit by discussions and sentiment around the engine makers and the supply chain will continue to be the pacing item in 2024 for the aviation industry recovery and production ramp up for the airframer’s, Airbus and Boeing
The airshow emphasized that commercial widebody aircraft demand is back. After years of depressed demand due to an over-purchased cycle around 2010 and then the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been years of limited demand and need for widebody aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777, 787 models.
Graham Dunn with Flight Global reported at the conclusion of the airshow a combined total of 393 firm and optional total aircraft ordered from Airbus and Boeing. 50% of these orders were for wide-body aircraft and this is a strong sign of long-haul commercial aviation recovery is underway.
It is likely that the airshow could have booked additional aircraft orders, but there was discussion around the challenges in the engine segment. New engine durability issues prompting earlier than planned engine removals and engine removals for component replacements due to recently published air worthiness directives.
Molly Russell from Simple Flying recently wrote that the airshow order results showed that Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan Groundings are having a clear impact on Airbus narrowbody sales. Russell further noted that the concerns were significant enough that no airline ordered the popular Airbus A320neo aircraft at the airshow.
Emirates president, Tim Clarke discussed with the media at the Airshow that the Rolls Royce XWB-97 engine which powers the Airbus A350-1000 has had reliability issues and he is looking for engine improvements to be made.
This airshow had a large contingent of the UAE’s domestic companies with their products on display. The UAE is actively working on industrializing and growing their aerospace and defense manufacturing in their country with a desire that future UAE defense purchases will also have manufacturing completed in the UAE as a part of these defense purchases from American defense firms such as Boeing.
Show Business, an Arabian Aerospace publication at the Dubai Airshow interviewed Ted Colbert, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space and Security. Colbert shared that modernizing the UAEs defense capabilities and products is very important to Boeing. He further shared that Boeing potentially would support manufacturing and bringing together a capability that supports the UAE, similar to how Boeing has done in regions like India on the Apache AH-64 helicopter and in Australia on the MQ-28 Ghost Bat Autonomous vehicle.
During the airshow, the UAE announced both initiatives on expanding engineering facilities and manufacturing expansion of indigenous weapons that could go onto U.S. companies’ aircraft platforms.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), a designer and manufacturer of remotely piloted aircraft had established an agreement with the UAE’s Edge Group, an advanced technology group to integrate the UAE designed and manufactured smart weapons onto the GA-ASI MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely-piloted aircraft.
The announcement made on November 12th on GA-ASI’s website highlights the advancement for UAE’s industrial, technical, and manufacturing capabilities. Speaking with C. Mark Brinkley, strategic communications & marketing for GA-ASI at the airshow, he further added that the UAE already operates GA-ASI’s unarmed Predator XP and is working towards acquiring the larger and weapons-capable MQ-9B for the future implementation of Edge’s weapons systems.
The 2023 Dubai Airshow highlighted high order totals, an aspirational UAE aerospace and defense industry and a great air display. It was an excellent airshow to end 2023.