DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Emirati conglomerate Edge Group has established what it calls an international multi-domain testing site for defense and aerospace systems, the first of its kind and size in the Gulf region, according to the company.
Dubbed the X Range, the site is located on an island, named Abu Al Abyad, measuring 350 square kilometers, or almost twice the area of Washington DC, about an hour’s drive from Abu Dhabi. The complex is accessible from the shore via bridge.
“The north side of the island has a dedicated shoreline for amphibious landing training and exercises as well as shooting ranges and training facilities,” Haitham Awinat, chief executive officer of Remaya International, EDGE’s branch overseeing the venture, told Defense News at the Dubai Air Show here. “On the east side, you can find a 3,800 meter runway for large aircraft, a large drone hanger for storage, and drone testing zones.”
The location also features a directed-energy weapons testing area and is equipped with an additional 1,200 meter runway specifically for unmanned aircraft. Current airspace availability is up to 40,000ft but can be extended further if needed.
A similar training venture was recently established by the U.S. Central Command in Saudi Arabia, known as the Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Center, to test counter-drone technology.
According to Awinat, all the platforms in EDGE’s portfolio have been trialed there. There are plans to make the X Range available to international law enforcement and defense customers.
“Our staged development plan currently foresees that in the second half of 2024 we will be ready to onboard international clients for them to exclusively use the testing site and deliver their equipment for this end,” Awinat said.
The range can be booked for a duration anywhere between several weeks to six months for international customers., he added. “No favoritism would be conducted” in picking or rejecting clients, with the UAE ministry of defense involved in making those calls, Awinat said.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.