UAE defence companies and MBDA, a European missile maker, are jointly launching three new missile defence systems for the Middle East market at the International Defence Exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

The three joint initiatives together cost about €100 million (Dh418m) to develop, and comprise a ship-based missile system, a mobile ground-to-air defence system and a coastal defence battery.

The market for defence products in the region is expected to remain fairly robust, despite the pressure on budgets because of weaker oil prices, said Florent Duleux, the Middle East vice president for MBDA.

“Budgets in the region may be revised in the coming year, however the instability in the region and emerging threats mean that countries will have to stay focused on security,” Mr Duleux said. “I think the threats remain too strong at the moment for any major cutting of defence budgets.”

MBDA is a joint venture between BAE Systems in the UK, Airbus in France (each with 37.5 per cent) and Italy’s Finmeccanica (which owns the remaining 25 per cent of the venture).

The company vies with America’s Raytheon for the top spot in worldwide missile exports, excluding closed markets in the US and Russia.

The joint venture had total sales last year of €4 billion, of which €2.5bn were exported outside Europe, and half of its exports were to countries in the Middle East. Mr Duleux said MBDA expects exports to increase this year and next, driven by the Middle East.

Two of MBDA’s new missile programmes have been jointly developed at Abu Dhabi’s Al Fattan shipyard with the oilfield services firm Siham Al Khaleej, and the system will be marketed soon to naval defence buyers in the region, Mr Duleux said.

One is called the Sea Spear and is based on the Brimstone missile system, which is designed to have a firing capability against fast, smaller incoming seaborne attack craft, which are familiar in Arabian Gulf waters.

The other joint programme at Al Fattan is a coastal battery anti-ship system based on MBDA’s Marte missile. This is already in the inventory of the UAE armed forces and will be marketed jointly in the region shortly.

Mr Duleux said MBDA is also launching an air defence system with Nimr Automotive, the armoured vehicle division of Tawazun Group, which merged into the Emirates Defence Industries Company in December.

This is a system based on the Mistral 3 missile and is the “ultimate layer of defence”, Mr Duleux said, which means it is for short-range defence against aircraft that have eluded the longer range defence systems.

Buyers in at least three GCC countries already have expressed interest in the new integrated products, Mr Duleux said.

amcauley@thenational.ae

www.thenational.ae

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