Lockheed Martin's Thaad interceptor gets first combat use in UAE missile attack | Tech News

Lockheed Martin's Thaad interceptor gets first combat use in UAE missile attack

General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie cited two “successful intercepts by Thaad” when the UAE found itself facing incoming missiles.

| Updated on: Feb 04 2022, 23:41 IST
Thaad stands for Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense. (REUTERS)
Thaad stands for Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense. (REUTERS)

The United Arab Emirates' successful destruction of missiles fired by Houthi rebels in recent weeks represented the first combat use of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s high-altitude interceptor known as Thaad, according to the head of U.S. forces in the Middle East. General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie on Thursday cited two “successful intercepts by Thaad” when the UAE found itself facing incoming missiles fired from Yemen by the Houthis, who are supported by Iran. Thaad stands for Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense. 

“Those were UAE-launched, U.S.-systems,” McKenzie said during a video session sponsored by the Washington-based Middle East Institute. U.S. officials had previously described the response more vaguely, calling them Emirati missile defense systems. 

The UAE was the first international buyer for the Thaad system when the sale was initially proposed for congressional approval in September 2008. The system also has been purchased by Saudi Arabia and has been been deployed by U.S. forces in South Korea,Guam and Israel.

While the U.S. has had Patriot antimissile batteries in the Middle East, and activated them recently when the UAE was facing attack, the Thaad is a more modern system that can intercept short- and medium-ranged ballistic missiles at higher altitudes. Having both Thaad and Patriot systems deployed can provide a more layered defense for U.S. forces and allies. 

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In January, the Houthis launched attacks with missiles and drones that ignited a fire at Abu Dhabi's main airport and set fuel trucks ablaze in a nearby industrial area, killing three people and wounding six. 

The assault took place days after the Houthis warned the UAE against intensifying its air campaign against them.  

Officials at Lockheed declined to comment when asked about the use of Thaad in the UAE. 

The recent missile attacks mark the biggest blowback for the UAE since it got involved in Yemen's civil war about seven years ago. They also threaten to rattle investors, who count on the country as a safe haven in a volatile region -- as well as legions of foreign workers, who call the Emirates home and keep its economy running.

The latest interception came during a visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who met with the UAE's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, for the first time since the two countries normalized relations in 2020.  

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Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said in a televised speech on the group's Al-Masirah TV Monday that its fighters conducted two attacks, targeting Abu Dhabi with ballistic missiles and Dubai with drones. He warned the strikes would continue until the UAE ends its involvement in Yemen. 

The U.S. has vowed to aid the UAE in bolstering its defense, a point McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, emphasized on Thursday. 

“We are going to bring in additional fighter aircraft into the UAE in the very near future” and “we are going to position some ships closer to the UAE” as an indication that “we very clearly recognize the situation they are in,” McKenzie said.

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First Published Date: 04 Feb, 23:41 IST