Saudis, Israel to lead Mideast arms buys

Society Materials 24 August 2009 10:45 (UTC +04:00)

Defense expenditure in the Middle East will cross the $100 billion mark in the coming five years, mainly due to deals Gulf states are closing out of fear of Iran's nuclear program, the Frost & Sullivan consulting firm said, in a report released Sunday.

The bulk of spending is to come from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. In 2008, for example, Saudi Arabia spent close to $36b. on defense platforms and it will likely spend the same amount over the coming five years, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Israel is in second place and will have spent some $13b. by the end of 2009, according to the report.

"Israel's spending has been quite consistent as it has built a very effective and modern military with the most cutting-edge technologies," the report said. "It is still expected to keep spending to stay ahead of its regional adversaries in order to protect its interests."

Iraq is one of the major markets being targeted by defense companies. Control of the country is gradually being transferred from US forces to Iraqi troops. As this happens, the report claims, the "need for equipment and platforms for law enforcement would be increased."

Iraq will likely invest heavily in upgrading its military infrastructure in the first part of the next decade and could spend as much as $11b. by 2014, the report says.

The various countries are buying a wide range of platforms. Israel is interested in purchasing the stealth F-35 fighter jet as well as two new missile ships. UAE and Saudi Arabia have invested billions of dollars in recent years in ballistic missile defense systems, such as the THAAD, which was recently approved for sale to the UAE as the first customer outside of the US.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon notified Congress of a possible military sale to the government of Saudi Arabia of Communication Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management upgrades at an estimated cost of $1.5b.

The Saudis have also asked the US to buy Tactical Airborne Surveillance Systems at an estimated cost of $530 million. The UAE also recently asked the Pentagon for approval to purchase over 360 Hellfire missiles and accompanying hardware.