Lockheed Martin has been picked by the UAE as preferred bidder for an air-defence system that could form the basis of an integrated missile shield for the entire Arabian Gulf region.
Called Diamond Shield, the system creates a centralised command and control centre capable of running all aspects of a country's air defence.
"The system is for advanced battle-space monitoring," said Cliff Spier, Lockheed's vice president for information systems and global solutions, at Idex in Abu Dhabi yesterday. "It integrates ground and air defences, selects the right weapons and guides them to the target.
"It offers the operator engagement tracking at the click of a button, so that his instructions are communicated direct by data link to a launcher."
Lockheed beat an offer from the French manufacturer ThalesRaytheonSystems to gain preferred status.
Up for grabs has been the contract for the UAE's Extended Air Defence Ground Environment-Transformation programme, to upgrade its battle management system for air operations, including defence against ballistic missiles.
Using software designed by Lockheed Martin, Diamond Shield creates a picture of the air and sea space to be defended and alerts operators to potential threats ranging from incoming missiles still outside the Earth's atmosphere to small speedboats behaving suspiciously offshore.
It also integrates the operation of missile defences, in the UAE's case the THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, and the Patriot Pac3.
Once locked on to a target, the system can advise the operator on the best missile to use to assure its destruction.
THAAD and Patriot Pac 3 are particularly effective with Diamond Shield because of their hit-to-kill capability, said Orville Prins, Lockheed's vice president of international air and missile defence.
"For any country concerned about a missile threat, this is 'must have' technology," added Mr Prins.
"Unless you have hit-to-kill, you will not have the capability to destroy weapons of mass destruction payload [on an incoming missile]. Hit-to-kill is an absolute must."
Lockheed and the US government have been urging the Gulf states to create a layered missile defence umbrella for several years.
"However, political questions over many aspects of command and control of the system have stalled discussions.
Lockheed, however, believes Diamond Shield offers a solution to the diplomatic hurdles.
"A country needs its own air defence network," said Lockheed's Mr Spier.
"But Diamond Shield allows you to share your defence coverage with your neighbours and allies. What you are looking at, they can look at. It enables old systems and new systems to be integrated. Diamond Shield is an enabler for GCC integration."