Emirati Engineers Excel in Energetic Materials at EDGE

The United Arab Emirates’ transition from an importer of defence equipment to a developer and manufacturer of cutting-edge defence technology and beyond has been rapid, calculated, and comprehensive. While the public lauds the new advanced UAE-made systems on show at exhibitions and highlighted in the media, the people that have studied and developed these systems are accomplishing UAE-firsts and laying the foundations for future Emirati engineers.

Shining examples of these trailblazers can be found at EDGE entity HALCON, a regional leader in the design, development, and advanced manufacturing of missiles and unmanned systems. In the past four years, two young Emirati engineers at HALCON, Salama Alheara, Manager of explosives and pyrotechnics development and Shaikha Aldarmaki, Manager of solid rocket propellants development, have launched a first-of-its-kind facility in the UAE, established a cutting-edge technology department and achieved multiple firsts as Emirati and Arabic women.

In 2019, the two chemical engineers were integral in creating the first Cathode Electro Deposition (CED) coating plant in the UAE. As junior engineers at the time, Shaikha initiated planning of the plant with Salama joining the project in its establishment and development phases. Achieving this was no small feat and not without its challenges. Shaikha mentioned that, as with all firsts, there was no frame of reference nearby. Planning had to begin with consulting experts and attending coating exhibitions around the world. The process of learning and understanding how to implement and qualify the facility presented its own challenges, especially when the coating had to be up to military specifications. The facility is now fully functional, standing as a monument to their determination and hard work.

Two years later, they achieved a Masters in Chemical Engineering, majoring in Energetic Materials from the University of Belgrade, Serbia. Both graduated with distinction, and were among the first Emirati women in their field to obtain a Master’s degree in energetic materials. Salama said that they immediately put their education to use as the two played a critical role in the establishment of the Energetic Materials department at HALCON, taking a leading role in hiring, training, and managing engineers and chemists.

In 2022, they participated in the New Trends in Research of Energetic Materials international seminar, held in Pardubice, Czech Republic. Based on their Master’s theses, they published their first journal articles and presented their findings at the event. Their participation was notable, as the Chairmen of the seminar informed Shaikha and Salama that they were not only the first Emirati’s to participate but also the first Arabic women.

Shaikha presented her thesis on the, “Optimisation of Thermobaric Explosives Formulations by Numerical Modelling of Detonation”. Simply put, applying Shaikha’s findings in thermobaric explosives development can save resources and reduce the risk associated with experimental work.

Salama presented her thesis on the, “Application of Thermobaric Computer Code in the Prediction of Nano-scale Nitramines Performance”. Applying Salama’s findings, again, simply put, would mitigate the hazards involved in researching nano-sized energetic materials.

Compounding these achievements, Shaikha and Salama have not stopped learning throughout their careers, attending theoretical and practical training in energetic materials in various countries. Shaikha said that her latest project involves developing composite propellant, another first for Emirati women. Once completed, Shaikha will be able to impart practical knowledge to junior engineers at HALCON and implement the propellant into HALCON’s aerial systems.

Today, Shaikha and Salama are preparing for their next attendance in a global conference, hinting at a possible trip to France, applying their learnings and experience in HALCON’s world-class facility and furthering the development of Emirati women in the defence industry, representing a shining example of Emirati excellence. Women in Engineering Day is and will continue to stand as a day where the UAE takes a moment to celebrate those that head the call of the country’s leaders in laying a foundation for others to build on and blaze their own path. Just as HALCON’s engineers have done.

Al Jundi

Please use portrait mode to get the best view.