Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The United Arab Emirates announced defense contract deals worth more than $3 billion on the first two days of the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi, including becoming the first customer of Lockheed Martin's new anti-missile system.
The Middle East nation announced 33 deals on the opening day Sunday at IDEX 2019, including 15 deals with foreign nations worth just under $1.1 billion, CNBC reported. About $490 million of the deals involved American companies.
Then on Monday, UAE signed nearly $2 billion in deals, including $1.6 billion with foreign companies, Arabian Business reported.
On Sunday, Lockheed Martin, German-based Diehl Defense and Sweden's Saab announced its new Falcon air defense weapon system to counter short and medium-range air defense threats.
On Monday, Raytheon was awarded a $1.55 billion contract to supply UAE's air force with platforms to launch missiles. Also, Raytheon on Sunday announced a $354 million contract to supply the UAE with Patriot missiles.
Hesco, another U.S.-based company, will supply defensive shelters. Other foreign companies signing deals were France's Thales, Australia's EOS Defense and Germany's Rheinmetall Electronics.
On Tuesday, Italy's Leonardo announced it has partnered with Abu Dhabi Ship Building on a memorandum of understanding to create a combat-management system for the United Arab Emirate's 20 navy ships.
UAE has been ramping up its own defense manufacturing industry. Like other Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia, it is moving away from relying on the oil industry.
The Middle East is the world's top arms-importing region and accounts for nearly 20 percent of the global defense market, according to IHS Janes. Spending increased from $82.3 billion in 2013 to $103 billion in 2019, according to the analytics firm.
The Middle East is the world's top arms-importing region, according to the analytics firm, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the global defense market. American companies make up 50 percent of the exports that go there.
"I think there is an arms race happening in the Middle East," Bremmer told CNBC at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday. "The Saudis of course are spending the most on their defense, but the UAE is ramping up as well, the Iranians are ramping up."
Lower oil prices may reduce spending, Bremer said.
"But still, the defense contractors should be happy in this environment, that's true all over the world," Bremmer said. "And, in an environment where there are so many big challenges, it's a little sad to see just how many countries are working to ramp up their defense spend."
At the conference, Lockheed Martin, Saab and Diehl Defence unveiled the Falcon. They want the system to replace aging defense systems, including the UAE's Hawk.
"We kind of searched the market, looking for the best products, the most modern [and] capable products, and that's where we came together in a partnership," Scott Arnold, Lockheed Martin's vice president of integrated air and missile defense, told Defense News.
They began working together in 2016 on the system.
Lockheed Martin will be the prime contractor for the system, which will include one command and control vehicle, one radar vehicle and three launchers for the IRIS-T interceptors.
Lockheed will supply the Skykeeper command and battle manager system, Saab will provide the Giraffe S-band radar and Diehl will build the IRIS-T air-to-air missile and SLM launcher system.
"Our international customers are looking for the next generation short and medium range air defense solution," Arnold said in a Lockheed news release. "Falcon is threat driven and ready now. Falcon is a great example of working with our customers to identify potential gaps and find rapid-response solutions to take on today's evolving threats."
The missiles are a modified version of the air-to-air variant in use by the German Air Force. Launched from the ground, they have a range of 25 miles.
"Unlike other systems which are using air-to-air missiles in a ground launched role, this missile was explicitly developed for ground-based air defense applications," Diehl Defense's Dr. Harald Buschek told Defense News. "You need a good missile in order to intercept what you want."