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US clears $5B in THAAD, Patriot missile system sales to UAE, Saudi Arabia

Illustration: US Air Force file photo of a THAAD launcher at an undisclosed location in the Middle East

The US State Department has approved potential sales of missiles and other equipment for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot missile defense systems to United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.

The two separate approvals have a combined value of over $5 billion.

UAE has requested to buy THAAD system missiles, fire control and communication stations, and related equipment for an estimated cost of $2.245 billion.

The wish list included 96 THAAD missile rounds, two launch control stations and two tactical operation stations. Also included are repair and return, system integration and checkout, and other related elements of logistical and program support.

UAE recently became the first THAAD user to use the system operationally this year as it employed it intercept a midrange ballistic missile launched by Yemen’s Houthi at an Emirati oil facility in the vicinity of Al-Dhafra air base.

THAAD provides defense against short, medium and intermediate-range ballistic missile threats, and is the only US system designed to intercept targets outside and inside the atmosphere. The system uses hit-to-kill technology to destroy a threat with direct impact neutralizing lethal payloads before they reach protected assets on the ground.

“The proposed sale will improve the UAE’s ability to meet current and future ballistic missile threats in the region, and reduce dependence on US forces. The UAE will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces, as it currently employs the THAAD system,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said.

Should a definitive agreement be signed, the principal contractor on the THAAD sale would be Lockheed Martin.

Patriot missile sale to Saudi Arabia

The larger of the State Department’s two military sale approvals from August 2 has an estimated value of $3.05 billion and would see Saudi Arabia replenish its Patriot missile stocks.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has requested to buy 300 Patriot MIM-104E guidance enhanced missile-tactical ballistic missiles (GEM-T), including tools and test equipment, and other supporting items.

“The proposed sale will improve the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by replenishing its dwindling stock of PATRIOT GEM-T missiles,” DSCA said.

“These missiles are used to defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s borders against persistent Houthi cross-border unmanned aerial system and ballistic missile attacks on civilian sites and critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. These attacks threaten the well-being of Saudi, International, and US citizens (approximately 70,000) residing in the Kingdom.”

The principal contractor on the Patriot sale would be Raytheon.

Saudi Arabia is also a THAAD customer, having been approved for a $15 billion purchase of the system in 2017. In 2018, the US and Saudi Arabia signed a formal letter of offer and acceptance for 44 THAAD launchers. The kingdom is expected to procure a total of 360 interceptor missiles.