x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Missile makers target Gulf defence deals

There are gaps in the defences of GCC countries, and the big boys from the air defence missile industry are in town to try to show how to close them.

The THAAD anti-missile defence system. (Courtesy Lockheed Martin)
The THAAD anti-missile defence system. (Courtesy Lockheed Martin)

There are gaps in the defences of GCC countries, and the big boys from the air defence missile industry are in town to try to show how to close them.

The third Middle East Missile and Air Defense Symposium (Memad) opens today at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi, against a background of increasing tension in the region, and according to the agenda there will be a "high-level discussion on identifying and plugging capability gaps, and working towards a standardised framework for regionally integrated air and missile defence."

"There are threats some countries here do not have a response to, especially in the area of weapons of mass destruction," said Orville Prins, the vice president of business development at Lockheed Martin, a US defence giant and one of the world's leading air defence missile manufacturers.

Memad 2012, held under the auspices of the UAE Armed Forces has gathered decision makers from around the GCC as well as its allies in North America and Western Europe to discuss "the critical challenges of emergent missile threats", and to evaluate, "state-of-the-art missile defence systems against the full spectrum of air and missile threats".

"In a tactical sense, the threats are three fold", said Florent Duleux, the vice president of regional sales for MBDA, a French missile systems company who is also in Abu Dhabi for the symposium.

"Small boats, low-profile surface craft, armed with who knows what. To counter them you need small systems with fast reaction. Cruise-type missiles, which are spread across the region, are low flying, supersonic, and need equally fast, accurate systems to track and intercept. And thirdly, ballistic missiles, which require even more sophisticated counter-measures."

While the two-day symposium is not an arms bazaar for the missile makers, both Lockheed Martin and MBDA have systems to sell.

MBDA's inventory includes its Aster 30 system designed to meet any air threat, including Cruise and ballistic missiles, intercepting at speeds of up to Mach 4.5, and is capable of being ground or ship launched. It is already in use by several Nato countries and Saudi Arabia.

"Our systems are already used by all the GCC countries," said Mr Duleux. "This is a very important region for us, and accounts for between 25 and 30 per cent of our turnover."

"We already have €11 billion [Dh52.83bn] worth of orders in the pipeline and we see the future market being worth €3bn to €5bn over the next five years."

The Emirates' armed forces have already contracted Lockheed Martin for it's Patriot Pac 3 missile and in December the company signed a US$1.96 billion (Dh7.19bn) contract to deliver to the UAE its Thaad (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system - its first foreign military sale.

The Pac 3 can hit targets at an altitude of up to 24,200 metres and is capable of intercept speeds of Mach 5. Thaad missiles have an estimated range of 200km, and can reach an altitude of 150km. Both it and the Pac 3 are equipped with "kinetic kill" technology, which means the missile destroys the target by colliding with it at sufficient velocity and accuracy that it completely destroys it.

Lockheed Martin regards both missiles as part of an integrated command and control air defence system it has developed for evaluating threats and layering defence measures to provide interception of targets from space to close in.

Customers however, have to be approved by the US government.

dblack@thenational.ae

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