Defense Media Network

U.A.E. Becomes First International Customer for THAAD

In what must be a mere coincidence of timing with the latest round of saber-rattling across the Straight of Hormuz, Lockheed Martin has announced its receipt of an “undefinitized” contract totaling nearly $1.96 billion (out of a total FMS case value of $3.48 billion) to produce the THAAD Weapon System for the Missile Defense Agency and the United Arab Emirates.

THAAD is the only missile defense system with the operational flexibility to intercept in both the endo- and exo-atmospheres to provide versatile capability to the warfighter.

Reflecting on the significance of the recent contract award, Lockheed Martin Corporate Business Development Vice President Dennis Cavin noted that the company was “very excited and delighted to confirm the first international sale of the THAAD missile defense system to the United Arab Emirates. This is the first FMS sale – U.S. government to the government of the U.A.E. – for the THAAD program, and is a milestone as we look at the development of this program and its future globally.”

“Combined with their 2008 procurement of the PAC-3 system, the U.A.E. will have – when THAAD is delivered – a very robust integrated missile defense architecture – actually the best in the world,” he added. “THAAD is the only endo-/exo- capability that exists today, and it leverages Lockheed Martin’s hit-to-kill technology, which is the most lethal technology that exists in the world today.”

“PAC-3 is an area defense/smaller footprint [system],” he explained. “The THAAD system is a terminal high altitude [system], which is a much broader area capability; and it goes against much more robust and stressing kinds of missile threats. PAC-3 is an air defense and a missile defense system. THAAD is strictly a missile defense system.”

The U.A.E. procurement is for two fire units, with 96 interceptors, support equipment and training.

Cavin emphasized that the U.A.E. and U.S. THAAD systems provide “the same capability,” noting that the terminology “doesn’t allow for any misgivings or misunderstandings.”

Since 2005, the THAAD development program has completed 12 flight tests, with nine intercepts in nine attempts.

Lockheed Martin is currently under contract for four THAAD batteries for the U.S. Army. A contract for the delivery of the first two U.S. Army batteries (24 interceptors in each battery) was awarded to Lockheed Martin in late 2006 and the U.S. Army activated its first THAAD battery at Fort Bliss, Texas in late May 2008.

Deliveries of the first 48 missiles are slated to be completed this summer.

Contracts for batteries three and four were awarded in late 2010 and early 2011 respectively, with deliveries of those 48 missiles scheduled to begin in the middle of 2012.

“We have a bid in for the next two batteries [five and six] now,” added Lockheed Martin THAAD Vice President and Program Manager Tom McGrath. “We will be negotiating over the next 3 – 6 months, probably closer to 3 months, with the U.S. government, and these U.A.E. buys will add to those purchases that the U.S. is already planning.”

“It does increase our [production] rate somewhere between 50 and 100 percent,” he added, noting that the current “planned build rate” at Lockheed Martin’s Pike County Facility in Troy, Ala., is four interceptors per month, but for the last quarter the plant has been achieving a rate of five per month.

Because the delivery of those interceptors reflects an operational capability issue, Cavin said, “Our customer, the United Arab Emirates, have asked us not to discuss in the open the delivery schedules.”


Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...