Air Defense: Safeguarding Emirati Skies

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November 13, 2015: Satellite photos indicate that the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is withdrawing its Hawk air defense missile batteries (acquired in the 1980s) and replacing them with Patriot batteries. UAE first ordered Patriot in 2001. Six air defense missile sites are now missing there Hawk equipment and appear to have Patriots. Each Patriot battery is manned by about a hundred troops and contains a radar plus four launchers. A battery can fire two types of Patriot missile. The $4 million PAC 3 missile is smaller than the cheaper anti-aircraft version (PAC 2), thus a Patriot launcher can hold sixteen PAC 3 missiles, versus four PAC 2s. A PAC 2 missile weighs about a ton, a PAC 3 weighs about a third of that. The PAC 3 has a shorter range (about 20 kilometers) versus 96 kilometers for the anti-aircraft version. While each Patriot launcher, loaded with PAC 3 missiles, can only defend against ballistic missiles approaching within 20 kilometers, the Patriot radar can detect targets out to a hundred kilometers. Two PAC 3 missiles are fired at each incoming ballistic missile, to increase the probability of a hit. The PAC 3 missile has its own radar, and uses it to track the incoming warhead, and execute a collision course. The UAE apparently sent at least one Patriot battery into Yemen with UAE ground troops helping the government there fight Iran backed Shia rebels. UAE was also seen using at least two S340 airborne radar aircraft in Yemen.

The UAE is doing a lot more to upgrade its air defenses. In 2013 the UAE ordered 17 French Ground Master 200 (GM200) portable radars. The system fits in a standard 20 foot shipping container and weighs less than ten tons. It is carried on one 6x6 truck. This is an AESA radar that can be set up by a four man crew in 30 minutes. It can detect aircraft at up to 250 kilometers and locate them accurately enough for targeting at 100 kilometers. Aircraft can be seen at up to 25.8 kilometers (80,000 feet) altitude. The entire system will, on average, operate for several thousand hours before experiencing a failure. The radar can also track incoming mortar shells but not ballistic missiles. The UAE is using the GM200 to better coordinate its several different anti-aircraft systems (Improved Hawk, Rapier, Crotale, Patriot, NASAM, and Avenger) all of which can use real-time data from these radars. Each GM200 system cost about $23 million and will further enhance UAE defenses against Iranian attack.

 

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