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An Apache attack helicopter, similar to that operated by the UAE armed forces, at the Helishow Dubai 2008.
An Apache attack helicopter, similar to that operated by the UAE armed forces, at the Helishow Dubai 2008.

UAE military to buy Hellfire missiles

The Armed Forces has requested up to US$526 million worth of Hellfire missiles and related equipment and services.

The Armed Forces have requested Hellfire missiles and related equipment and services worth up to US$526 million (Dh1.93bn) from US-based contractors, extending an unprecedented series of missile deals. The US government's Defence Security Co-operation Agency, which facilitates foreign military sales of US technology, informed the US Congress that the UAE had requested 326 Hellfire missiles from Lockheed Martin. It is believed the missiles will be used to resupply the Armed Forces' existing fleet of Apache attack helicopters from Boeing. The deal is the latest in a massive buying programme by the military in missile defence systems and other military capabilities, including upgrading its fleet of 30 Apache helicopters to Boeing's latest standard, known as the Longbow. The Hellfire deal, if it goes through, would also include missile warning systems and radar warning receivers, along with equipment and services from Science and Engineering Services, BAE, Northrop Grumman, L3 Corporation and Boeing. In its testimony to support the deal, the US agency said it would "contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East". The deal will also help the UAE support US overseas operations, the agency said. "The support equipment will strengthen the effectiveness and interoperability of a potential coali-tion partner, reduce the dependence on US forces in the region and enhance any coalition operations the [US] may undertake," it said. "The United Arab Emirates will have no difficulty absorbing this support into its armed forces." The Hellfire was designed in the 1970s as a "tank-buster" to be fired from helicopters, and evolved into a multi-platform missile capable of being fired from unmanned aerial vehicles, fighter jets and warships. The missiles, which weigh roughly 47kg and have a range of 8km, need to be replaced periodically either because forces have used them in gunnery practice or they have reached the end of their 10-year shelf life. The proposal also involves the sale of AN/AAR-57 missile warning systems made by BAE, which warn aircraft of incoming infrared-guided and radar-guided missiles. Other equipment would include radios, transponders and Doppler radar. The UAE was the third-largest purchaser of military systems between 2004 and last year, behind China and India, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Last year, the UAE agreed to purchase Patriot defensive missiles worth $3.3bn from the US-based Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. It also spent $5bn on defence contracts including fighter trainer jets and light attack aircraft from Alenia Aermacchi of Italy at the IDEX military exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February. The Government is in talks with Dassault, the French aerospace firm, for the Rafale multi-role fighter jet, and is considering bids from Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Saab for radar-equipped early warning and control aircraft. It also intends to spend up to $7bn on the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defence) missile defence system from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, which can knock out incoming rockets in the upper atmosphere. The Air Force is expected to receive its Apache helicopter from Boeing after the Longbow upgrade, which will include stealth enhancements, missiles, training devices, initial spares, depot spares, support activities and integrated logistics support, according to trade magazines. Deliveries have been scheduled for between May and November this year. igale@thenational.ae

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