Talks are at advanced stages with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to implement the Thaad weapons system, which intercepts short and mid-range ballistic missiles, a senior Lockheed Martin official said yesterday.
Qatar, which notified the US Congress in 2012 of its intention to buy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system (Thaad), is working with Lockheed Martin on its “architecture and configurations”.
“We will see an announcement of the Thaad sale. It could be at the end of the year or some time early next year. They will announce that they will buy Thaad in whatever quantity they decide and we will begin the building and delivery process,” said Michael Trotsky, the vice president of air and missile defence systems at Lockheed Martin.
He said that news of a deal with Saudi Arabia could come in the next 12 to 24 months.
“They are very interested in discussing Thaad and determining if it’s right for their country and how it is going to work with their architecture,” Mr Trotsky said.
Lockheed Martin said in December that it expects to begin delivery of Thaad to the UAE by the end of this year, making the country the first to deploy this technology outside the United States. In 2011, the UAE became the first country outside the US to order two Thaad systems and additional maintenance and support equipment. The UAE already has Lockheed’s short-range Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (Pac-3) surface-to-air missile system. In 2012, the UAE ordered 48 Thaad missiles, parts and logistical support at an estimated cost of US$1.13 billion. The country also placed an order in 2013.
The UAE is also in talks with Lockheed Martin over the multibillion-dollar sale of 30 F-16 Block 61 aircraft.
Arabian Gulf countries, including the UAE, are boosting defence spending as terrorism threats intensify amid the political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa region.
The UAE is expected to more than double spending on military imports this year, according to a study released this month by UK-based IHS Jane’s.
The country was ranked the second-biggest defence importer in the Middle East, behind Saudi Arabia, and is forecast to be the world’s No 3 defence importer this year, according to IHS Jane’s.
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