DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Emirati Ministry of Defence will buy two more GlobalEye airborne early warning planes from Swedish aerospace firm Saab, bringing the country’s total number of aircraft to five, officials announced on Tuesday at Dubai Airshow.

No contract has been signed, and the terms of the order will not be set in stone until final negotiations have concluded. However, the sale is worth about $1 billion, Saab stated in a news release.

“I expect this to be finalized shortly,” Saab President and CEO Micael Johansson told Defense News in an exclusive interview following the announcement.

“I think it’s amazing. It shows the trust in us,” he said. “We knew that we were really close to a big contract. So it was sort of a little bit expected but you never know.”

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The United Arab Emirates is the launch customer for the GlobalEye, a modified Bombardier Global 6000 business jet outfitted with Saab’s Erieye radar and other sensors that allow it to identify land, sea and air targets.

Saab CEO Micael Johansson speaks to Defense News immediately after the surprise announcement that the UAE intends to buy more GlobalEye aircraft.

Dubai Airshow has historically been a landmark event for the GlobalEye. The UAE announced the first order for two GlobalEye planes at the air show in 2015, and one of the three existing UAE jets is being showcased on display at the event for the first time this week.

Three UAE GlobalEye aircraft have been built, flown and are in some state of modifications or testing. The first plane is slated to be delivered to the nation’s air force in 2020.

Johansson said there has been some interest in GlobalEye from other Middle Eastern countries, but talks remain in the early stages.

“We are in initial discussions with a couple countries and also elsewhere in the world,” Johansson said.

The company has offered two GlobalEye planes as part of a package of Gripen E/F fighter jets to Finland, but it will face off against Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-35, France’s Dassault Rafale and the British-made Eurofighter in a competition that will be decided in 2021.

Saab also sees potential for GlobalEye in South Korea, which is interested in purchasing additional airborne early warning aircraft after buying a version of the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail.

Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.

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