The UAE’s missile inventory is set to grow exponentially by 2015 when the country begins accepting deliveries of 192 THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missiles worth $3.9 billion from Lockheed Martin.
The request first came last November for 48 THAAD missiles, along with nine launchers, spare parts and training data, according to a news release by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency. At the time, the deal was valued at $1.1 billion.
However, the latest procurement is only one of many. In 2012, the UAE requested the sale of advanced missile defense systems worth approximately $4 billion citing the need to counter growing regional threats, perceive threats and lower their dependence on US forces.
This order came within months after the country had signed an initial order for $1.96 billion of THAAD weapons systems.
THAAD is designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles with an interceptor that slams into its target.
It can accept cues from Lockheed's Aegis weapons system, satellites and other external sensors, and works in tandem with the PATRIOT Advanced Capability-3 terminal air-defense missile. THAAD includes its own radar along with interceptors and communications and fire control units.
In 2011, the UAE became the first country in the Middle East to operate the advanced Patriot anti-missile systems. The details of the deal, which was signed in 2008, are unclear. However, the same year Raytheon announced it had signed a $3.3 billion contract to supply the Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missiles system, or GEM-T, which brings advanced radar to the basic Patriot system.
The deals were part of a $4 billion proposal to build an advanced defense systems that would shield the country from aerial threats including intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The DSCA notification included requests for 288 of Lockheed's PAC-3 missiles, and 216 GEM-T missiles.
The same year, a Lockheed Martin official said that an agreement to buy an anti-ballistic missile system reportedly worth about $7 billion was expected to be concluded before the end of the fiscal year.
"The discussions started way back in 2007 when the Emirati government expressed interest in an integrated air and missile defence system," said Dennis Cavin, Lockheed Martin vice president for international air and missile defence.
The missile defence consists of "the Patriot PAC-3 system, the THAAD system and then the integration" of the two.
"It's a layered defence system," said Thomas McGrath, Lockheed Martin vice president and THAAD programme manager, with Patriot missiles covering lower altitudes while THAAD covers higher ones.
The status of this deal is unclear.