Al Tariq, a member of the UAE based EDGE group is one of the world class manufacturer of precision-guided air munitions and systems. Theunis Botha, CEO of Al Tariq speaks to Aeromag on the success stories of the company, new initiatives, manufacturing capabilities and future programs. Al Tariq is actively looking at India as its potential market and ready to support the Make in India initiatives of the Indian government, says Theunis Botha, CEO of Al Tariq.
Since its inception, AL TARIQ has marked its own signature in the manufacture of precision-guided air munitions. Could you just sum up the major milestones in the journey to success over these years?
AL TARIQ is the first UAE-based manufacturer of precision-guided systems for conventional air munitions. Established in 2012 as a joint venture with Denel, South Africa’s largest government-owned defence manufacturer, we launched the ‘Al Tariq’ modular guidance kits to mark this milestone, and it remains our flagship product to date. Working with Denel Dynamics, we have built up our production capability over a short period by focusing on production expertise and continual innovation. Since then, we have enhanced our engineering capabilities and have implemented a range of operational features through cutting-edge technology and continuous innovation into the Block II version of Al Tariq. We have also enhanced our production capacity through cost saving measures and continuous improvement in our operations.
The rising challenges in airborne defence require combat-driven munitions that are smaller, smarter, and faster. How does AL TARIQ plan to tap the potential in airborne defence by competing with other major players?
We offer a niche and competitive product portfolio of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) that can greatly enhance strike capabilities with a class leading stand-off range. Our fire-and-forget system helps improve aircrew and aircraft safety, and its seeker technologies mitigate collateral damage by delivering a very high degree of accuracy. Advances in navigation solutions have added to the precision of AL TARIQ’s weapons. In the future, our focus is to implement various new smart technologies within the flexibility of our range of precision-guided weapons.
Could you elaborate on the product line-up of AL TARIQ in various fields like precision-guided munitions, fire-and-forget and seekers? Who are the major customers of your products?
We design and produce the ‘Al Tariq’ range – a modular family of precision-guided munitions designed for the Mark 81 and Mark 82 aerial bombs. With multiple configurations being available, each weapon configuration performs in diverse missions to ensure that our forces are protected on the front line.
The ‘Al Tariq’ family will be expanded in the future to include other versions of aerial bombs. We are currently in the process of integrating this on to more aerial platforms for future applications.
Our main customer is the UAE Armed Forces, who currently use the full range of the ‘Al Tariq’ family of weapons. We are also in discussions with a few countries for exports.
Leveraging the latest advanced technologies gives AL TARIQ an edge in optics, and weapons. Please shed some light on your manufacturing capabilities and production facilities.
We operate one of the region’s most advanced engineering labs focused on environmental stress screenings across all operating and storage environments, including temperature and vibration. Our in-house metrology lab also performs quality inspections on parts we procure. We have a strong engineering team with world-class expertise in electronics, mechanics, software and weapon integration, who constantly push the boundaries of technology for the improvement of the system. The advanced technologies enable our engineering team to create local intellectual property across multiple engineering disciplines including digital electronics, software development and mechanical designs for use in future applications.
India has been actively enhancing its defence manufacturing by attracting international players through schemes like Make in India. How does AL TARIQ look at the Asian defence industry, especially the Indian, as a market of growth?
The Indian defence sector has huge potential to attract foreign direct investment. The new policies will encourage multinationals to set up manufacturing bases in India or acquire local companies. AL TARIQ recognises the rapidly growing market in India, and we are involved to address the future requirements of the Indian Armed Forces. We have engaged with Indian defence companies to address the future “Make in India” programmes for the Indian Ministry of Defence. This will entail the future production and co-development of high technology systems as required by the Indian Defence Forces.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all industries including defence. How is your company coping with the impact and what are the measures taken to overcome the challenges?
The pandemic has forced us to adapt and alter the way we work and operate. We are continuing to enhance our ‘Al Tariq’ range of PGMs and are currently in the process of starting our planned production for the Block II version towards the end of 2020. The Block II version features a number of new operational upgrades that greatly enhance the system’s capability.
In terms of coping with the pandemic challenges, like any other company, we have been ensuring that our employees have the means to perform their duties safely and efficiently, while maintaining business continuity. All operations and business functions are continuing as normal despite the unprecedented pressures.
Could your share your vision and objectives for AL TARIQ?
The company’s vision is to continually enhance our range of precision-guided munitions through innovation, advanced technology, and added value. As mentioned earlier, we want to focus on the modularity and flexibility of our systems’ solutions, which enable it to adapt to new priorities as the nature of warfare evolve. Our immediate emphasis is to produce the latest Block II version of ‘Al Tariq’ and offer it to our customers.