Tim Ripley

Progress is slow in the race between America and Russia to supply the United Arab Emirates with a ballistic missile defence system, although the current crisis between the US and Iraq may spark some activity.

If the deal goes through it will be worth several hundreds of millions of dollars, although Raytheon, one of the bidders, says that no decision has been made and there is no indication that one will be made soon.

"We have been in discussions since 1995, and the UAE has appointed an air defence evaluation team, which indicates their efforts are serious," says Kent Swanson, managing director Middle East air defence prog-rammes at the US company.

"Their discussions with the us and the Russians continue. Any deal will involve a significant amount of money although the final figure will depend on the number of fire units involved."


Raytheon, which is offering its Patriot system, is trying to play down the contest with the Russians after media coverage of the issue generated vitriolic headlines.

"It is not a dogfight - just a competition," says Swanson.

"Anything that increases tension in the region, such as the recent episode with Iraq, is good for business in the Gulf. Iran's occupation of UAE islands also heightens tensions and is a cause for concern."

Swanson says the Russian S-300 (SA-12) missile system is not compatible with current US and Coalition missile, early warning, command and control systems.


"They have no compatible software or hardware" he says.

"There are dangers with fielding that [Russian] system. There is no compatible IFF (identification, friend or foe) - no command and control inter-operability.

"Several countries in the region already have their Hawk surface-to-air missiles integrated with Patriots. The Russian system does not integrate with that at all."

To date, customers for Raytheon's Patriot system include Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which together are spending around $4 billion, says Swanson.

Source: Flight Daily News