United Press International – 2010-11-14 23:13:10
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, (November 12, 2010) — The US Department of Defense plans to sell the United Arab Emirates 60 Boeing AH-64D Apache strike helicopters worth $5 billion — even as Washington turns up the heat on the Persian Gulf state to curb trade with Iran.
The Defense Department said Monday it had notified the US Congress last week of the proposed sale. Lawmakers have 30 days to approve or reject the sale, although no significant opposition is expected.
The proposed sale is part of a massive arms package for the Arab states of the gulf valued at $122 billion over the next decade. It is intended to beef up their military capabilities to counter Iran, with a new focus on their offensive capabilities.
“The volume of arms purchases by the United Arab Emirates,” a federation of seven emirates in the southern gulf, “has increased significantly over the past 10 years and is likely to remain a major arms buyer in the coming years,” said the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors global arms sales.
The emirates’ air force is its most potent military component, with 155 combat aircraft. Saudi Arabia, which has the largest air force in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council alliance, has 280.
Thirty AH-64D Apaches were delivered to the emirates in 2008-09. The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees US foreign arms sales, said the emirates sought 30 new combat helicopters — 30 AH-64D Block II craft remanufactured to Block III configuration, and 30 Block III variants.
These would be accompanied by spare engines, radars and sensor systems. Lockheed Martin would deliver 100 Army Tactical Missile Systems and 60 low-cost, reduced-range practice rockets under a $140 million contract.
The emirates are also expected to take delivery of four Patriot MIM-104 PAC-3 air-defense missile batteries built by Raytheon, 60 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk armed transport helicopters and 12 Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 and six Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft.
France will be providing three A-330 MRTT tanker/transport aircraft built by Airbus Industries and six Baynunah-class corvettes designed by France’s Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie. The first corvette, built at CMN’s yard, is undergoing sea trials. The other five will be constructed by Abu Dhabi Ship Building.
Russia is due to deliver up to 50 Pantsir S1 short-range air-defense missile systems, with Italy providing two Falaj-2 corvettes and one Abu Dhabi-class frigate. The emirates plan to acquire two other Falaj-class vessels and another Abu Dhabi-class frigate.
The emirates also seek three Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missiles systems built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, a deal worth up to $7 billion and cleared by Congress in September.
The air force is also seeking 16 twin-engine Boeing CH-47 Chinook heavy lift transport helicopters from the United States. They plan to acquire 60 combat aircraft from the United States or France, 48 M-346 advanced trainer aircraft from Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, plus three early warning aircraft, for which several countries are bidding.
Meantime, the administration of US President Barack Obama is pressing the emirates, particularly its banks and companies, to tighten the economic squeeze on Iran under sanctions imposed by the United Nations in June.
It isn’t clear whether US efforts to persuade the emirates, in particular Dubai, its financial hub, to crack down on sanctions busters are linked to the emirates’ military procurement program. But the Americans say there’s a heavy flow of dual-use equipment, which can be used for military purposes as well as civilian, being smuggled into Iran through Dubai in spite of the sanctions, imposed because Tehran refuses to abandon its alleged nuclear arms program.
“Dubai has become a much more difficult place to do business with Iran, as credit lines from banks have dried up,” the Financial Times reports.” But the United States is keeping up the pressure.”
The emirates’ trade with Iran was estimated at $12 billion in 2009 but that’s expected to nosedive this year as banks withdraw credit lines.
Oil-rich Abu Dhabi, the emirates’ economic powerhouse and which controls arms procurement, has traditionally taken a tougher line on Iran than the more freewheeling Dubai, which has long-standing banking, trade and smuggling links with Iran across the Persian Gulf.
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