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Middle East , Missile and Space

Saudi Arabia Seeks Israeli Iron Dome Missile Defence System for its Own Military; A New and Ludicrous Arms Market for Israel?

January 25th - 2018

Amid growing ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel particularly in the defence field, the Arab kingdom is reportedly seeking to purchase advanced Israeli weapons systems for its military. The Israeli military inducted the Iron Dome medium range missile defence system in 2011, part of its three tier missile shield. The system is capable of intercepting short range missiles up to 70km away, and serves as an excellent complement to the longer ranged David's Sling system. Saudi military experts allegedly examined Iron dome systems in Abu Dhabi and have shown interest in the weapons system for its ability to stop attacks launched by Yemen's Ansurallah coalition forces. This comes shortly after reports of the complete failure of Saudi Arabia's U.S. made PATRIOT missile system to intercept extremely basic Yemeni missiles.

Saudi Arabia's military is currently awaiting the delivery of both the U.S. made THAAD anti missile system and the Russian S-400 air defence system. Both are long ranged systems, with THAAD maintaining a 200km range and S-400 a 400km range. THAAD in particular is entirely incapable of intercepting short ranged targets, and is specialised in high altitude interceptions. The Iron Dome could potentially an effective complement for this system if its combat performance is as distinguished as Israel has claimed.

Growing ties between the United States' two foremost client states in the Middle East remains strongly in the interests of the Western bloc. Both Middle Eastern states share an enmity towards the adversaries of the Western bloc in the Middle East, and armed with the latest western weapons systems can be ideal proxies for handling these parties and ensuring that the region remains undisputedly in the West's sphere of influence. Indeed, Iron Dome itself could never have been developed if it were not for the extensive technological assistance and funding provided to Israel by the United States - and the technology is as much, if not more, American than it is Israeli.

With both Saudi Arabia and Israel being leading clients for U.S. weapons systems, military cooperation would be made easier by their weapons' interoperability. With Israel's weapons developers notably facing difficulties due to the conditions under which the latest U.S. military aid was granted, which severely restricted the military's ability to spend aid money on indigenous systems and forced Israel to rely heavily on imported American weapons, the beginning of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia could well present a ludicrous opportunity. With Saudi Arabia being the world's second largest arms importer spending well over $10 billion annually on foreign acquisitions alone, it could well prove the perfect defence parter for Israel. Sales to Saudi Arabia could also potentially pave the way for further sales to the United Arab Emirates, another longstanding Western client state, which despite its size maintains approximately half the defence budget of its larger neighbour and could prove a similarly ludicrous market for Israeli arms.

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