BEIRUT — Two European companies and a Middle Eastern defense firm are exploring co-development opportunities in the field of high-energy laser weapons systems to destroy drones.

Electronic warfare and intelligence specialist SIGN4L, which is a subsidiary of Emirati defense industry conglomerate Edge, signed a memorandum of understanding with European missile-maker MBDA and French firm CILAS, a subsidiary of Ariane Group.

The companies agreed to look into the potential cooperation during the International Defence Exhibition and Conference held Feb. 21-25.

“SIGN4L has a broad range of experience and expertise in directed-energy capabilities. The company provides the backbone of modern electronic warfare defense and security systems, using focused energy to support offensive and operational capabilities, to obscure, disable or confound an adversary,” said Waleid Al Mesmari, Edge’s vice president of program management for its EW and intelligence business.

Under the memo’s terms, each partner should identify a potential axis of cooperation among several domains and activities related to high-energy lasers, such as operational analysis and systems architecture, while also factoring in potential vulnerabilities and future performance demonstrations, according to a statement issued by SIGN4L.

The memo follows up on a bilateral cooperation agreement signed at the Dubai Air Show in 2019 between the French government and the United Arab Emirate’s Tawazun Economic Council. “We are focusing our efforts on the current arrangement and will revise the terms of our collaboration where and when it makes mutual business sense,” Al Mesmari told Defense News.

At the signing ceremony, MBDA head Eric Béranger said: “For the first time, MBDA is engaging in an ambitious cooperation outside Western Europe regarding high-energy lasers. Collaboration in this field is of a mutual interest since MBDA and CILAS’ capabilities and experience working on high-energy laser activities for more than 30 years is complementary to SIGN4L’s strong knowledge and expertise regarding them.”

When asked about the agreement’s time frame, Al Mesmari told Defense News that the goal is for “a long-term and sustainable collaboration.” He was unable to quantify the potential value of such a deal at this early stage, but he emphasized the benefits of joint collaboration of the sharing of knowledge.

“We aim to strengthen our local sovereign defense capabilities,” he said.

Should collaboration take place, the resulting system would target the UAE as the primary market to secure critical defense infrastructure, he added.

Agnes Helou was a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.

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