US sells $3.5 billion missile defense system to the UAE

The Obama administration will sell a $3.5 billion in missile defense systems to the United Arab Emirates, the Defense Department announced.

The UAE will buy two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense batteries, 96 missiles and spare parts for 30 years of spare parts.

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"Acquisition of this critical defense system will bolster the UAE's air and missile defense capability and enhance the already robust ballistic missile defense cooperation between the United States and the UAE," said George Little, a Pentagon spokesperson. "This sale is an important step in improving the region's security through a regional missile defense architecture."

The deal was struck Christmas Day, but was announced Friday.

Lockheed Martin will build the THAAD missile system for the UAE at plants in Alabama and Arkansas. 

"Lockheed Martin is pleased the U.S. Government and the United Arab Emirates have reached an agreement on a path forward for the first Foreign Military Sale of the THAAD Weapon System," Tom McGrath of Lockheed said in a statement.

In November, the administration announced another potential weapons deal with the UAE that included bunker-buster bombs.

On Thursday, the U.S. said it would sell a $29.4 billion weapons package to Saudi Arabia, which included 84 F-15 jets.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are U.S. allies in the Middle East and are seen as bulwarks to the growing power of Iran.