Abu Dhabi: The UAE is likely to become the first country outside the US to have an advanced ballistic missiles defence system developed by US weapons giant Lockheed Martin, a senior executive of the company has said.
Gulf News had a candid discussion with the Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin's Middle East division, Willy Moore, during the Dubai Airshow, which was attended by a large contingent of the company's executives.
"Lockheed Martin looks at the Middle East as an important region. Approximately 30 per cent of our international sales come from the Middle East, and we expect that we will continue to have a strong presence here in the years to come," Moore said.
The UAE Airforce operates about 80 F-16 fighter planes made by Lockheed Martin.
"We were so pleased to see UAE pilots flying demonstration flights in Lockheed Martin F-16s at the Dubai Airshow. They are the result of over a decade of engagement in the UAE from the signing of the initial contract to the delivery of the aircraft and up to today," said Moore.
Several regional programmes are in development in which Lockheed will be a major contractor.
"The governments of the United States and the UAE are having discussions about Theatre High Altitude Area Defence [THAAD] systems making the UAE the first customer for this system outside the United States. We look forward to providing this unique technology to the UAE," added Moore. According to a statement from US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the programme is valued at about $7b (Dh25b).
Lockheed Martin's regional headquarters is in Abu Dhabi. Lockheed Martin also supports a number of local partnerships.
"We are committed to supporting the UAE's Emiratisation efforts and continue to look for opportunities for additional partnerships with local businesses," he added.
Lockheed Martin is a 30 per cent shareholder in a local joint venture for aircraft maintenance and support.
The company, Advanced Military Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Centre (Ammroc) is owned by Mubadala Aerospace, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky to provide maintenance services for fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft of the UAE Armed Forces.
The nations of the region are constantly adapting to the changing global security environment.
The UAE's military expenditure was about $15 billion in 2010, making the UAE second in the GCC after Saudi Arabia (Dh139 billion), and 18th worldwide.
In comparison, the military expenditure of the US in 2010 was about $700 billion.
"Many nations see the need to enhance their capabilities in a number of areas, including tactical aircraft and integrated air and missile defence.
"The UAE Government is superbly able to determine the threats and security challenges that it faces. Our role is to help the government meet those challenges by offering products and services that assist in defending the nation's interest," Moore said.