Iran tensions to boost Gulf arms sales -Lockheed

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U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin expects more sales of anti-missile interception systems in the Gulf in a regional military buildup sparked by growing tensions with Iran, a company executive said.

Lockheed, fresh from a $3.6 billion deal to sell its Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to the United Arab Emirates in December, is in talks with other Gulf states to promote the advanced systems, said Dennis Cavin, a 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 conference in Abu Dhabi, Reuters reports.
“All the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries have expressed an interest in the THAAD.”

Gulf countries are spending billion of dollars on defence procurement amid increasing tensions with Iran over its nuclear programme. Iran has repeatedly denied charges by the United States and its allies that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and said it is for power generation.

Talks between Iran and world powers over the dispute are due to resume on April 14 in Istanbul, after collapsing more than a year ago.

Tehran has threatened to target Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf if it is attacked and also to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of the world’s sea-borne oil traffic passes daily.

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The UAE deal was the first foreign sale of THAAD, the only system designed to destroy short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles both inside and outside the earth’s atmosphere.

Cavin said Lockheed looked to leverage its experience with the UAE to offer the systems to other U.S. allies and partner countries 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 followed a $1.7 billion direct commercial contract to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s Patriot missiles and a sale of 209 advanced Patriot missiles to Kuwait, valued at roughly $900 million.

Last year, the Obama administration also announced it had sealed a deal to sell $29.4 billion in advanced Boeing Co F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, the priciest single U.S. arms sale yet.

The ongoing build-up of Saudi Arabia as a counterweight to Iran is projected to total as much as $60 billion over 10 to 15 years, including the F-15s, three types of helicopters and advanced missiles, bombs and other hardware and services.

Cavin said there has been a “dramatic improvement” in relationships within the GCC and in countries’ partnering with the U.S. government 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 said.