Official: Lockheed system should give UAE 'best' missile defense 'in the world'

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced Friday it will be the first non-U.S. customer to purchase Lockheed’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

The UAE intends to buy nearly 100 interceptor missiles, which are designed to take out other missiles, according to Lockheed officials. The deal will bring Lockheed nearly $2 billion, officials told reporters on a Jan. 3 teleconference.

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The Middle East nation already bought Lockheed’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile system.

When the nation puts its THAAD interceptors beside its PAC-3 missiles, its missile defense capability will match America’s, Dennis Cavin, Lockheed Martin's vice president of Corporate Business Development, said during the call.

He said UAE’s system likely will be “the best in the world.”

The PAC-3 missile system is what the military calls an “area defense” system, while the THAAD system covers a bigger area and is designed to engage “more stressing kinds of missiles,” Cavin said.

The transaction is part of a broader push by the Obama administration to arm U.S. allies in the Middle East as a hedge against an increasingly aggressive Iran.

In addition to the UAE missile system, Washington is selling Saudi Arabia advanced F-15 fighters and advanced munitions. It also intends to sell Iraq fighter jets and other weaponry.

Lockheed officials touted the first international sale of the THAAD system, and hinted that additional sales will come.

The U.S. government is in talks with other nations about buying the advanced missile defense system, Cavin said