Land Warfare

Middle East invests in air defence as instability continues

2nd October 2019 - 15:52 GMT | by Ilker Aktaşoğlu in London


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According to the newly published Defence Insight report on the artillery and air defence market the Middle East has seen substantial procurement activity in recent years.

There has been particular demand for air defence systems driven by long-standing conflicts in Syria and Yemen, along with fears about Iran and frictions among the GCC states, and with investment in long, medium and short-range capabilities all in evidence.

The full Artillery and Air Defence Market Report and Forecast 2019-2029 covers the global market for the systems over the next decade.

‘Total spending is expected to be around £28 billion over the next 10 years, but the vast majority of this is already committed through to the middle of the 2020s, said Matt Smith, director of analysis. ‘There are very few new programmes visible in the later years of the decade, which is likely to be due to funding being shifted into upgrading and sustaining the capabilities that have been acquired.’

This surge in activity is particularly evident in Saudi Arabia, which is by far the largest market in the region with total estimated spending of $17 billion over the next 10 years. A key concern within Saudi Arabia is protection against missile and drone strikes from Houthi rebels in Yemen and longer-range attacks from Iran.

These concerns have been borne out by high-profile attacks in 2017 and 2019 and have led to procurement of new systems and the deployment of additional air-defence capabilities into the country by the US.

‘The country’s procurement spending in air defence is dominated by its biggest programme: procurement of Terminal High Altitude Air Defence (THAAD), which could eventually be worth $15 billion,’ Smith continued. The most recent increment of the deal saw Lockheed Martin awarded a $1.5 billion contract for THAAD interceptors in April 2019. The whole programme is expected to be completed by 2026.

For its medium-range capability Saudi Arabia operates 22 Patriot fire batteries, comprising 21 systems acquired between 2014 and 2017 for $1.7 billion and rebuilt to PAC-3 configuration, plus one additional battery acquired in 2017. It is also negotiating for the sale the S-400 long-range air defence system from Russia, worth an estimated $2 billion.

The UAE also fields both THAAD and Patriot, taking delivery of nine PAC-3 batteries between 2012 and 2014, with two THAAD batteries acquired in the same time frame under a $2.5 billion deal.

Its future requirements are more focussed on short-range capabilities, with a replacement for the Hawk short/medium-range GBAD system expected. Lockheed Martin, Diehl Defence, and Saab are expected to offer their new jointly developed Falcon system.

Another country looking to diversify its defence supplier base is Qatar. In 2014, Qatar ordered ten Patriot PAC-3 batteries under a $7.6 billion deal, with delivery scheduled by the end of 2019, however Qatar has reportedly also expressed an interest in acquiring the S-400. For its short-range needs Qatar has turned to NASAMS, provided by Raytheon and Kongsberg.

Israel has one of the most sophisticated and modern layered land-based air defence networks, due to both traditional and asymmetric threats from neighbouring territories. This network includes ten Iron Dome fire batteries (operational since 2010), seven Patriot systems, and Arrow, Barak 8 and David’s Sling batteries.

The US contributed financially to the development of the latter, and there are two systems deployed, enough to cover all of the country, in service with the Israel Defence Force since 2016.

The land-based variant of Barak 8 also became operational in 2017, but Israel is moving to the indigenous Barak MX variant, developed by IAI based on the Barak family, which incorporates three different interceptors and offers flexibility according to customer needs.

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