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UAE looks to upgrade missile defence systems

Abu Dhabi, December 6, 2010

The United Arab Emirates is planning to upgrade its missile defence systems and integrate them regionally with other Gulf Arab states to shore up its defences, top military officials said.

The six oil exporting Gulf states -- worried about potential retaliatory strikes by Iran in the event of US or Israeli military action against Tehran -- have been spending billions of dollars on the latest defence systems.

Leaked US diplomatic cables last week cited some Gulf leaders worries about Iran's nuclear programme with, most notably, Saudi King Abdullah urging Washington to attack Iran's nuclear sites and 'cut off the head of the snake.'

Three dozen countries possessed ballistic missiles half of whom were in Asia or the Middle East, Major-General Mohammed Suhaih al Kaabi, deputy chief of staff of the UAE Armed Forces, said at a military conference.

'The threat of attack of long-range ballistic missiles is real. We must be prepared to defend our people, nation and region against any threat,' he said.

He did not name the countries, but two military officials at the conference in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, cited countries such as Iran, Israel, India and Pakistan.

'There is a high concentration of theatre ballistic missiles ... (in the region) ... that can cause significant damage,' Brigadier General Mohammed Murad al-Baloushi, commander of UAE Air Force & Air Defence Operation Centre, said.

He said the UAE therefore needed to equip itself with the latest missile systems.

The UAE was in the advanced stages of procuring and upgrading its Patriot missiles and theatre ballistic missile weaponry, he said without elaborating.

It is also building up a sophisticated missile defence system and operating a Centre for Integrated Air & Missile Defence that would likely be a model for other Gulf countries.

The Gulf state is expected to buy the THAAD (Theatre High Altitude Area Defence) missile system made by Lockheed Martin Corp.

That deal may come in early 2011, a defence source told Reuters on Sunday. 'Other Gulf states are also thinking about THAAD,' the defence source said. He declined to be named as the deal is not yet signed.

UAE defence officials declined to comment on the deal.

Efforts are underway to improve integration and interoperability of the Gulf's missile defence systems.

'An integrated missile defence system is the best to counter any threat,' said Kaabi.

But this could take time.

'The military is subject to political direction,' said Riad Kahwaji, chief executive of the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis. 'There is a strategic vision to have an integrated missile defence system but none have set a time.'

'The UAE is showing the lead and others will follow.' – Reuters




Tags: UAE | abu dhabi | upgrade | Missile defence |

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