With the current international situation putting defence strongly back on the agenda for Middle East nations, Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS) has geared up for a busy show. Moves to revitalise co-production arrangements in the region are underway and the company is aware that it needs to look at doing more than simply trying to sell systems to its local customers.

Considering the continued turmoil wracking Iraq and the growing tension between Iran and the West over the former’s nuclear ambitions it is perhaps unsurprising that RMS has detected a renewed interest in acquisitions in the Gulf.

“We’re seeing a resurgence of interest in defence in the region,” says Bill Sharman, director of Middle East business development for RMS. “The politics are such that, clearly, there’s a very large Gulf security dialogue between the US and our partners in the region. People in the region are concerned about the Iraq and Iran situation, but are also re-equipping their militaries for the next generation of systems required for the threat.”

Sharman, who describes the region as an extremely important one for RMS, says historically around 22% of the company’s turnover has come from export sales: “We’re trying to grow that to 28% in the next five years.” As part of this drive, it is looking at the earlier ‘releasability’ of systems to export customers.

All export sales naturally require US governmental clearance but with the UAE “readily being acknowledged as a friendly or supportive coalition partner, the export of weapons systems here face far fewer problems than would be the case with some other countries”, says Sharman.

A case in point is the sale by international consortia, of which Raytheon is part, of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) systems to the UAE. The anti-aircraft/anti-missile systems will equip the country’s new class of six multi-purpose Baynunah-class corvettes currently under construction by Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding. The initial batch of ESSMs has been contracted, as have the launchers for the RAMs, with a contract for the latter missiles due to be signed early next year.

RMS accepts that, as elsewhere in the world, nations in the Middle East are seeking to become more than simple purchasers of defence equipment, instead seeking a stake in systems they plan to acquire. Apart from simple offset requirements Raytheon is now seeing a desire to follow the European model and undertake co-production of those systems, with the aim of bringing an increase in both local employment and manufacturing capabilities.

RMS has had such industrial relationships with locally-based companies previously, says Sharman. It has had a long history with Saudi Arabia’s Advanced Electronics Company (AEC), which co-produced the Paveway II laser-guided bomb (LGB). In recent years that link has gone rather quiet but is now set for a revival following developments within the Royal Saudi Air Force. With the selection of the Eurofighter Typhoon for the service, plus planned upgrades to its Boeing F-15 and Panavia Tornado fleets, there is a new opportunity for co-operation.

“Mission support is something we are really trying to focus on,” adds Sharman. ‘In the past we have sold weapons but there is so much more to that process in terms of supporting those systems in the country, whether it be training, maintenance, potential modifications down the road and the demilitarisation of those items at the end of their life.”

“There are thousands of Mavericks, Paveways et cetera in the region and we see a very large opportunity for working with industrial partners in these countries to support these systems. We will be exploring this at the air show.”

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Source: Flight Daily News