Amid raising tensions in the Persian Gulf and around the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. company Lockheed Martin announced on 30 December its receipt of a contract to produce THAAD Missile Defense Systems for the United Arab Emirates.
The deal, worth $ 1.96 billion, is the first sale of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapons system to a foreign nation. The contract includes production of two missile systems with 96 interceptors, additional maintenance and support equipment.
According to Lockheed Martin, THAAD is the key element in the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) since the first two batteries became operational in 2008 and 2009. Two more batteries were ordered 2010 and 2011.
The system aims to intercept short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles, both inside and outside the atmosphere up to a range of 200 kilometers. THAAD consists of five main components: interceptor, launcher, radar, fire control & communication and support equipment. The components are mobile – the interceptor itself is basically fired off a truck – and are to defend troops, population centers and critical infrastructure from a ballistic missile threat.
The U.A.E. are already using Patriot (PAC-3) missile defense systems, but as Lockheed Martin Vice President Dennis Cavin explains, “PAC-3 is an area defense/smaller footprint [system]. The THAAD system is a terminal high altitude [system], which is a much broader area capability; and it goes against much more robust and stressing kinds of missile threats. PAC-3 is an air defense and a missile defense system. THAAD is strictly a missile defense system.”
Cavin also said that the system for the U.A.E. is going to have exactly the same capabilities as the U.S. systems.
The Emirates ability to defend themselves against the growing missile threat from across the Persian Gulf (Iran) gets a significant boost with THAAD. The order is only the latest item in a long arms shopping list, largely financed by revenue from oil and natural gas sales. The UAE’s defense budget rose from $ 2.1 billion in 1999 to $ 10 billion in 2010, major procurements included the 80 F-16 E/F fighter jets (2007), 26 UH-60M and 12 Fenec helicopters, anti-tank and anti-ship missiles.
Moreover, the U.A.E. air force is looking to buy 60 multirole combat aircraft with the French Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon as the remaining contenders.