Lockheed Martin’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system successfully undertook a sophisticated “two versus two” trial-firing last month, and the air defense system has just completed a final review regarding the possible sale to the United Arab Emirates, which could be announced imminently.
THAAD has been on the table for the UAE since discussions began in 2007 between the UAE Air Force and Air Defense (AFAD), U.S. Central Command, U.S. Missile Defense Agency, and contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. These talks focused on providing an integrated air defense system for the Emirates in the light of increased threats in the region.
The first tangible product was an order for the Raytheon-led Patriot PAC-3 system. Lockheed Martin supplies the PAC-3 interceptors, but PAC-3 can also fire the Raytheon PAC-2 GEM-T missile, and the first test rounds were delivered this year. The UAE has nine fire units (batteries) on order.
Lockheed Martin leads the THAAD effort, and the UAE was the first export customer to be cleared to receive the system. THAAD has completed 12 successful flight tests, nine of which involved target engagements. The latest test, FTT-12, was undertaken on October 5 at the Pacific Missile Test Range at Barking Sands, Hawaii. Two interceptors were launched successfully against two targets in a near-simultaneous engagement.
The FTT-12 firings were conducted by U.S. Army soldiers from the service’s first THAAD battery rather than by contractor personnel. One of the missile targets was launched after being air-dropped from the rear ramp of an airborne Boeing C-17 transport, while the other target was fired from a seaborne platform. Further tests are planned for late next year, and could involve a large interoperable scenario. The UAE has been a participant in the THAAD flight tests.
Currently the U.S. Army has fielded two THAAD batteries, with a third to stand up next year. Lockheed Martin is contracted for four, although the outlined requirement is for nine. The UAE’s opening request covered three fire units, but the initial requirement has been reduced to two, along with a corresponding reduction in interceptors and radars.
With a high threat of theater ballistic missile attacks in the region, there is significant interest in upgraded Patriot and THAAD systems. Kuwait and Qatar have both reported interest in the latter.
As well as anticipating finalization of the THAAD contract, Lockheed Martin is awaiting the outcome of another UAE decision concerning an air defense battle management system, for which the company is competing against ThalesRaytheonSystems. Both competitors are demonstrating their systems to the UAE this week. The air operations center will integrate the operations of all air defense assets, to include PAC-3 and THAAD, and could grow to form the basis of a much wider C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) infrastructure.
MEADS Over-the-Shoulder Test This Week
This week Lockheed Martin will conduct a launcher characterization firing of a PAC-3 MSE interceptor at the White Sands range in New Mexico. Although it will not go up against a target, it will be the first “over-the-shoulder” firing to test the missile’s envelope. PAC-3 MSE is the interceptor vehicle for the MEADS (medium-altitude extended air defense system). Last week the MEADS system underwent a successful simulated engagement against real-world air and simulated missile threats.–D.D.