Qatar and the UAE want to buy US$7.6bn worth of Lockheed Martin missile-defence systems to reduce their dependence on US forces and strengthen their ability to counter perceived threats in the region, the Pentagon said.
The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the potential sale, which includes the possible acquisition of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) fire units, 12 launchers, 150 interceptors and other military equipment worth an estimated US$6.5bn to Qatar.
The UAE, which signed an order for US$1.96bn of THAAD weapons systems last year, requested an additional US$1.135bn worth of equipment including 48 THAAD missiles and nine launchers.
THAAD is a US Army system designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
Gulf countries are spending billions of dollars on defence procurement amid increasing tensions with Iran over its nuclear programme.
Foreign weapon sales by the United States tripled last year to US$66.3bn as Gulf states sought to build up military supplies amid growing tensions with the Islamic Republic, according to a study by the US Congressional Research Service.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was among the first to raise the issue of a missile shield three years ago, sought to spur Gulf allies during a trip to Saudi Arabia earlier in the year.
“We can do even more to defend the Gulf through cooperation on ballistic missile defence,” she said in March.
“Sometimes to defend one nation effectively you might need a radar system in a neighbouring nation,” she said. “But it’s the cooperation – it’s what they call ‘interoperability’ – that we now need to really roll up our sleeves and get to work on.”
Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s number-one supplier by sales, in August said Saudi Arabia and close regional partners had shown interest in purchasing its advanced missile-defence system.
“Look, all of the [Gulf Cooperation Council] nations have an interest,” said Dennis Cavin, a company vice president for army and missile-defence programmes.