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Gulf expo could boost Mideast arms sales

Saudis to revive Typhoon deal with BAE
London (UPI) Feb 18, 2011 - British defense manufacturer BAE disclosed that Saudi Arabia may modify its Salam program purchase of the Eurofighter Typhoon to, instead, equip part of the fleet with Tranche 3 capabilities. BAE suggested the contractual shift in an annual results report, released this week. The deal is estimated at more than $500 million. Saudi Arabia took delivery of the first 18 of 72 Typhoon jets over the summer. The deal calls for training of Saudi pilots and technicians in the United Kingdom. In addition, Riyadh has received 12 single-seat fighters and six two-seat trainers, with 10 of the total having been delivered during 2010, the Flightglobal Web site reported.

"Whilst deliveries on the Salam program remain on schedule, the program is likely to be adjusted to accommodate some customer changes," Flightglobal reported, citing BAE. "These may include relocating final assembly of the last 48 of the 72 aircraft, the creation of a maintenance and upgrade facility in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and, in addition, the last 24 of the 72 aircraft might be delivered with modifications to allow future incorporation of Tranche 3 capability."

The aircraft in question were originally destined for the British air force but were delivered to the Saudis to meet tight deadlines set by Saudi Arabia in line with the 2007 Typhoon contract. Since then, Saudi Arabia has been mulling the option of pushing back the order to a later date. Analysts have cited the possibility of the deal being scrapped or trimmed by Riyadh after its large purchase of Boeing F-15s and ambitious designs to upgrade existing F-15s in the country's fleet. A previous deal by BAE in 2006 to sell jets and other military hardware to Saudi Arabia collapsed following a probe ordered into details of the British-led deal.

Britain halts exports of security gear to Bahrain, Libya
London (AFP) Feb 18, 2011 - Britain on Friday revoked licences for the export of some security equipment to Bahrain and Libya because of the risk it might be used to suppress anti-regime protests, the Foreign Office said. A day after announcing a review of British arms export licences, the government had decided to revoke 44 licences for Bahrain and eight for Libya, said Alistair Burt, minister for the Middle East and North Africa. Licences for Yemen and other countries were under review.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was alarmed that soldiers had fired on protestors and urged Bahraini authorities to exercise restraint. "I am alarmed by reports of soldiers firing on protestors in Bahrain," said a statement from Hague, who visited the Gulf state last week as part of a visit to the Middle East and North Africa. "This is an extremely worrying development." Burt said licences would not be issued "where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, or which might be used to facilitate internal repression."

"This government takes extremely seriously its export control responsibilities. Britain has some of the most rigorous export controls in the world," he added. Burt added that the government had "no evidence of British equipment being used in the unrest in Bahrain". A British government source said the revoked licences were mainly for riot control equipment, including tear gas and rubber bullets. France announced earlier Friday it had suspended exports of security equipment to Libya and Bahrain.
by Staff Writers
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UPI) Feb 18, 2011
The Middle East's premier arms exhibition opens Sunday in Abu Dhabi amid forecasts that the region's military spending is set to grow by 14 percent over five years.

The biannual International Defense Exhibition and Conference, known as IDEX, is also being held Sunday-Thursday as oil prices have once more risen through the $100 level, driven in part by the regional pro-democracy turmoil that has reached the Arab producers of the Persian Gulf.

Escalating tensions between Iran on the one hand and the United States and Israel on the other have led to a major drive by the Arab states in the gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to acquire more advanced and powerful weapons systems.

High oil prices provide the gulf states with vast amounts of petrodollars to fund ambitious military procurement programs. Recent analyses predict that the gulf Arab monarchies will spend $122 billion on advanced combat jets, integrated missile defense systems, main battle tanks, attack helicopters and warships over the next decade or two.

The combination of the rising oil prices -- the current level is around $103 per barrel, the highest mark since September 2008 -- and growing concerns in the gulf that they, too, will be infected by the political turmoil sweeping the region is a heady mix.

Whether, as some industry analysts suggest, this will trigger further arms purchases isn't clear.

But with strategic arms procurement seemingly already in hand, any fresh spending is likely to be directed at strengthening internal security forces to counter any threat against the regimes in place.

However, this turmoil could be exploited by Tehran, as may be the case with the current unrest in Bahrain, the only Arab state in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council alliance to have a Shiite majority.

IDEX officials say 1,060 companies will exhibit at the show in Abu Dhabi, the emirates' capital. That's a record since the expo was launched in 1993 and more than 100 higher than IDEX 2009.

This year's exhibitors include the Lockheed Martin Corp. of Maryland, the Boeing Co. of Chicago, France's Dassault Aviation, Finmeccanica of Italy which supplies warships to the gulf states, Germany's Rhinemetall AG, and Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, which notched sales of $10 billion in 2010.

The arms show will run simultaneously with a naval defense exhibition, NAVDEX 2011, with 81 companies participating. Warships from the emirates' navy, Britain, Italy and France will be on display.

The 2009 show produced a record $5 billion in arms deals and with a couple of dozen big-ticket contracts currently nearing fruition, this year's edition could top that.

Many of the deals involve U.S. defense contractors linked to a massive arms sale to U.S. allies in the Middle East to bolster their military capabilities to counter an expansionist Iran.

The Emirates, for instance, is negotiating with the Pentagon for three Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile systems known as THAAD, to counter Iran's growing missile arsenal across the gulf.

That $7 billion deal was cleared by the U.S. Congress in September. The Emirates will be the first regional state to be armed with THAAD.

It's manufactured by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Other key contractors are Boeing, the Raytheon Corp. and Honeywell.

U.S. companies have long dominated the gulf arms market. They accounted for 54 percent of all sales in 2005-09, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors global arms sales, says. France was second with 35 percent.

SIPRI said the biggest market share for the Americans was the tiny emirate of Qatar, with U.S. firms supplying 98 percent of all new weapons systems. Qatar signed a security agreement with Washington in January.

Russia, Britain and China made up most of the remaining arms sales. Russian and Chinese exports went primarily to Iran, which has been under a Western arms embargo for three decades.

"The U.S. arms sales to these countries are meant to improve the defense capabilities of the recipient nations, reinforce the sense of U.S. solidarity with its GCC partners and, finally, create a semblance of interoperability with American forces," observed Dan Darling, a Middle East defense analyst with Forecast International of the United States.

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U.S. House kills F-35 jet engine plan
Washington (UPI) Feb 17, 2011
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