The United Arab Emirates is a key American partner in the creation of an integrated Gulf Missile Shield. Abu Dhabi’s investments in missile defense reflects a serious concern about Iran’s large and developing missile arsenal. It is the first country outside of the United States to deploy the THAAD missile defense system.[i]
The UAE has been involved in the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels who have consistently harassed civilian populations across the Gulf with missile and mortar strikes.
In January 2022, the THAAD located in the UAE made its first operational intercept of an enemy missile. The THAAD system intercepted multiple threats that were targeting areas in Abu-Dhabi, among them was a ballistic missile intercept that was heading for Al-Dhafra Air Base, home to U.S. and French military forces.
In June 2022, Israel announced the creation of a U.S.-led Middle East Air Defense Alliance (MEAD) of which Saudi Arabia and the UAE are believed to be members of.
United Arab Emirate’s Ballistic Missile Defense Capabilities
|Patriot/PAC-3||UAE||9||Ground-Based Launchers||15km (PAC-3), 22km, interceptor|
|THAAD||UAE||2||Mobile/Ground-Based||Medium-range, atmospheric interceptor|
|AN/TPY-2 Radar||UAE||2||Ground-Based||Forward-based radar for BMDS; Primary terminal radar for THAAD|
The UAE possesses the most advanced missile defense assets in the Gulf region as the only country outside the United States to deploy a THAAD battery and the first GCC country to deploy the Patriot PAC-3. Abu Dhabi currently deploys a mixture of Patriot GEM-T and PAC-3 missiles for terminal point defense, and THAAD for extended range and potential exoatmospheric engagements. The UAE posses an unknown number of MIM 23-Hawks that are capable of defending against low and medium altitude airborne threats such as aircraft and missiles . The UAE also purchased two AN/TPY-2 radars to provide sensing and situational awareness. The United States also deploys two of its own Patriot PAC-3 batteries to the UAE to provide additional defense.
United Arab Emirate’s Air Defense Capabilities
|Blowpipe||Short-Range Air Defense||Unknown||Man-Portable|
The UAE continues to push the development of capabilities for missile defense and has voiced interest in purchasing upgraded PAC-3 MSE interceptors. Efforts continue to integrate all of these assets with those of fellow GCC member states to find optimal defense solutions in conflict situations. This integration will be essential to maximizing the return on the substantial investments made by Abu Dhabi.
In March 2017, Lockheed Martin won a $286 million contract from the Missile Defense Agency for THAAD missile systems. Of that contract, $11.7 million is from a foreign military sale to provide the UAE with THAAD ground components.[ii]
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced, in May 2017, the possible sale of Patriot PAC-3 and GEM-T missiles to the UAE.[iii] The State Department approved the proposed sale which is worth an estimated $2 billion.
In 2017, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $130.3 million foreign military sales contract for PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile systems. The contract will provide for 35 missile segment enhancements, 100 launcher modifications kits, parts, software, and missile round trainers. Recipients include Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan.
Most recently, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of two THAAD launch control stations, two THAAD tactical operations stations, and 96 missile rounds, along with associated support equipment to the UAE. The $2.25 billion deal would add to the two THAAD launchers positioned in the UAE; one designated for the defense of Abu-Dhabi and another located in Al-Ruwais to protect the energy-industry.