Lockheed eyes more Gulf defence deals amid US-Iran tensions

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lockhead terminal high altitude area defence
Launching unit of a Theatre High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD). Photo - Armyrecognition.com

An executive of Lockheed, one of the biggest US weapons maker, said on Wednesday he expects more sales of anti-missile interception systems in the Gulf amid a potential military confrontation between US-Israel and Iran.

Lockheed sealed a $3.6 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates to sell its ‘Theater High Altitude Area Defense’ (THAAD) system in December last year. The Californian company is in talks with other Gulf states to promote the advanced systems, said Dennis Cavin, Lockheed vice president for army and missile defence programmes.

“We are in discussions with the other (Gulf) nations through government-to-government relations,” Cavin said on the sidelines of a defence conference in Abu Dhabi.

“All the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries have expressed an interest in the THAAD.”

Gulf countries are willing to spend billion of dollars on defence armaments as tensions between US and its allies and Iran heighten over its alleged nuclear programme. Iran has rejected charges by the West that it is developing nuclear weapons and said its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

Representatives from Iran and leading world powers are due to meet in Istanbul on 14 April in order to resume negotiations that broke down more than a year ago.

Tehran says it will target Israel and US bases in the Gulf if attacked by Western powers. It has also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil passageway through which a third of the world’s sea-borne oil traffic passes on a daily basis.

WAR OF OPPORTUNITIES

THAAD is the most advanced system designed to destroy short and intermediate-range ballistic missiles both inside and outside the earth’s atmosphere.

Cavin hoped Lockheed will pursue other US allies in the region to secure weapons in order to secure themselves from a ‘potential confrontation’ in the region.

“I can’t tell you who is the closest to making the next procurement, but I feel very optimistic that as long as the threat continues to evolve, there will be many opportunities to provide the capabilities,” he said.

The UAE deal took place after Saudi Arabia signed a direct commercial contract worth $1.7 billion to upgrade its Patriot missiles. Neighbouring Kuwait also bought 209 advanced Patriot missiles worth around $900 million.

Last year, President Obama pursued the Saudis to buy F-15 fighter jets from Boeing Co. The deal became the priciest single US arms sales worth $29.4 billion.

Defence analysts suggest Saudi Arabia is building up its military and intends to spend as much as $60 billion over the next 10 to 15 years. The future Saudi arsenal will include F-15s, three types of helicopters and advanced missiles, bombs and other hardware and services.

Cavin welcomed the “dramatic improvement” in relationships between the GCC countries and the US government that are working together to build a fully integrated air missile defence architecture.

“We are not there yet … but everybody acknowledges that it’s something that needs to be done quickly,” he added.

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