x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE to buy $7bn US missile defence system

The system, built by Lockheed Martin Corp, could be used to defend against regional threats.

A request by the UAE to purchase a US-made missile defence system valued at up to US$7 billion (Dh25.7bn) has reached the final stages of approval in Washington, according to people familiar with the deal. The missile system, a defence umbrella that the Bush administration has advocated as providing protection from Iran, would be built by the US defence giant Lockheed Martin, with Raytheon as a subcontractor. The US Pentagon is set to notify Congress - which must approve sales of arms to foreign governments - of the proposed sale of the system, Reuters reported. Congress will then have 30 days to review the deal. While it could reject the deal, such denials are extremely rare. Missile systems have been advocated by the Bush administration as a way to protect Gulf countries from any threat from Iranian missiles, although the UAE and other countries considering the systems have not specified particular threats they might be guarding against. The system would take at least a year to put into place and the term of the contract would run for several years, according to people familiar with the deal. The arms purchase request comes at a delicate time as US officials seek ways to pressure Iran, which it views as a threat to the Gulf and determined to develop nuclear weapons. Iranian officials have denied any desire to build nuclear weapons, and say they aim to build a nuclear power industry. For several decades, the UAE's main perceived threat was an air attack launched from Iraq, but since the fall of Saddam Hussein that perception had shifted to Iran. The missile system would bolster the country's defences as it phases out the US-made Hawk missile system from Raytheon. Representatives from the UAE were among a small group of nations last year observing a test of the system, known as THAAD, which is expected to be operational by 2010. If signed, the deal would be the third major missile defence agreement for the UAE in recent months. In June, Emirates Advanced Investments joined with Raytheon in a project to set up a UAE-based company to develop and build laser-guided rockets. This month, the UAE also agreed on a $115 million joint purchase with Oman of anti-tank Javelin missiles from Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. * With agencies bspindle@thenational.ae