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Rafale, LCA Tejas Exhibit Their Might At Dubai Air Show; IAF Says Indian Fighters Displayed ‘Superior Flying Ability’

Dubai Air Show 2021, which began on November 14, has attracted about 1,200 exhibitors from 150 countries, bringing military leaders and defense industrialists on one platform.

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The post-pandemic demand and new geopolitical churning make the air show especially significant with maximum demand to come from the Persian Gulf region, defense consultant Loren Thompson told Breaking Defence.

This is the largest-ever air show to take place since Covid-19 hit the world. “The world is opening up again, and that means there will be a surge in post-pandemic demand for military systems, likely driven by the Persian Gulf region,” Thompson was quoted as saying.

However, in what seems to be an unprecedented situation, one of UAE’s top defense partners, the US is set to register a thin attendance for the air show. While about 300 officials from the State and Defence departments will mark their attendance in Dubai, the Pentagon officials will remain absent.

This move comes with the unpleasant revelation that the mighty F-35 will not be present in the display this time. The thin American delegation attendance, however, is not due to any acrimony between the two partners but the former’s inability to make time-bound appointments in the requisite departments.


With the start of the Dubai Air Show on 14th November, Dassault Aviation has registered its participation with the French Contingent that was dispatched to the UAE. The Rafale C fighter aircraft and a Falcon 8X commercial jet are on a static exhibit.

Rafales flew from France with sustainable aviation fuel. Every day till the airshow ends, Rafale aircraft will take part in the flying demonstration.

Dassault Aviation at Dubai Airshow

Rafale C Fighters

Rafale C combat Aircraft is the single-seat variant of Rafale combat jets that have two more variants in use by the French Navy and Army apart from its Air Force. This C variant is equipped to carry out operations like, permanent “Quick Reaction Alert” (QRA), air defense, air sovereignty missions, power projection and deployments for external missions.

It also has exceptional capability to carry out deep strike missions, air support for ground forces, reconnaissance missions, pilot training sorties, and nuclear deterrence duties, according to Dassault.

This latest type of combat aircraft from Dassault Aviation is a moderately sized, yet extremely powerful, superbly agile, and very discrete aircraft that not only integrates the largest and most modern range of sensors but also multiplies their efficiency with a technological breakthrough called “multi-sensor data fusion.”

It is known for its versatility, survivability, Interoperability and flexibility.

Falcons 6X, 10X On Display

The company will also be promoting its new Falcon 6X and Falcon 10X ultra wide-body business aircraft at the Dubai Airshow. The static park will feature a full-scale recreation of the Falcon 6X cabin.

The Falcon 6X is the most spacious, modern, and flexible twin-engine aircraft in its class, with a range of 5,500 nautical miles (10,186 kilometers). Three planes are now undergoing flight testing. In a recent development, the new Pratt & Whitney Canada PW812D engine for the 6X has passed certification testing. The 6X is expected to be commissioned to service in late 2022.

The Falcon 10X, which was virtually unveiled on May 6, 2020, will have a range of 7,500 nautical miles (13,890 kilometers), allowing it to fly nonstop from the Gulf to any destination in Asia, Australia/New Zealand, or the United States West Coast.

Since the Mirage 5 era in the 1970s, Dassault Aviation has been a partner of the United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF). The UAEAF presently employs a fleet of Mirage 2000-9s, which are being updated with the help of Dassault.


Even as the United States will have a toned-down presence, its closest ally Israel made a debut at the Dubai Air Show following the signing of the Abraham Accords between the UAE and the Jewish nation last year.

The opening ceremony of the Dubai Air Show 2021. (via Twitter)

Seven Israeli firms, most of them state-owned, went to the Dubai Airshow. The delegation was led by Brig. Gen. (res.) Yair Kulas, the head of the Defense Ministry’s weapons exports department, Sibat.

Defense firms that went to Dubai included Elbit Systems, the Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael, Astronautics, Nir-Or, UVision and Tomer.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (RADS) displayed its “drone dome” that detects and destroys drones with lasers. UAE officials were reportedly enquiring about the range and weight of the anti-drone system.

Russia, China Among Big Exhibitors

The vacuum left by the American absence could be positively exploited by its rivals — Russia and China. Russia’s Kronshtadt is reportedly going to unveil a drone swarm control system based on AI and augmented reality at Dubai Air Show 2021.

Russia’s state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec is presenting a prototype of the latest stealth fighter aircraft ‘Checkmate’ at the show.

Checkmate has been touted as a Russian alternative to the F-35 through which Moscow is seriously aiming to break into the West Asian market which is dominated by the Western defense industry.

The Russian Checkmate at the air show. (Rostec photo)

On the other hand, Thompson speculated that China might be willing to override the bids of its competitors at the fair on weapons prices in order to significantly improve its access to the Middle-Eastern region.

China’s domestically-developed jet trainer L-15, touted as a “star model,” appeared at the Dubai Airshow 2021. The L-15 is a two-seat, twin-engine supersonic model designed to satisfy the need of training the best pilots.

“The model is for export purposes,” military expert Wang Mingliang told China Media Group (CMG). “Its performance is on-par with third-generation fighters,” Wang added that the jet is equipped with weapons enabling to serve as a real fighter when necessary.

Since China depends heavily on oil to meet its energy needs, an entry into the Gulf region and an enhanced relationship with the Arab countries could lead to a breakthrough for it.

China has reportedly landed in the Dubai Air Show with its best drones, something that does not come with many riders and has massive appeal in the conflict-ridden Middle East.

Indian Contingent At The Show

India has reportedly sent its largest-ever contingent to the Dubai Air Show. The IAF Tejas LCA Squadron No. 18, also known as ‘Flying Bullets’, presented an aerial demo at the opening ceremony.

The other members of the contingent include 5 ALH Dhruvs (Sarang Team), 10 Hawk 132s (Suryakiran Team), and one each of the C-17and C-130J.

The Indian contingent at Dubai Air Show.

The IAF was invited by the Dubai Air Show to participate with its Sarang and Suryakiran Aerobatics Teams to perform along with others like the Saudi Hawks, Russian Knights and UAE’s Al Fursan.

India also set to showcase indigenously developed drones by the Skye Company at the air show.

The Indian Air Force said that the LCA Tejas and Sarang Helicopter Display Team showcased “superior flying skills” at the Dubai Air Show.

The Tejas aircraft have arrived here on Friday to take part in the show. Tejas showcased its superior flying ability, maneuverability, and ease of handling against the golden backdrop.

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