In early November, the United States Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified the US Congress of a potential sale to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) worth €1 billion ($1.13 billion) for a second Lockheed Martin Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System (THAAD). This follows an initial order for a single system placed with the United States in December last year.
Should the deal be authorised, it could see the supply of a second Raytheon AN/TPY-2 X-band air surveillance radar to the country. The AN/TPY-2 performs search, target acquisition and fire control functions for the THAAD surface-to-air missile system.
In terms of AN/TPY-2 supplies to the Middle East, Qatar is receiving a single example which is being constructed at an undisclosed location in the country to support United States Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) efforts in the region. A second radar is in service in eastern Turkey supporting the same mission which was activated in January this year, and a third AN/TPY-2 is stationed in Israel.
The deployment of the AN/TPY-2 systems comes at a time when tensions between the West and Iran over the latter country’s ballistic missile developments and clandestine nuclear weapons programme continue to escalate.
Iran has commenced production of its Ra’d (‘Thunder’) ground-based air defence radar, according to a statements made by Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the country’s Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The radar is said to have a range of 27nm (50km) and a surveillance altitude up to 21,336m (70,000ft).
Little else is known regarding the capabilities of this new radar, although its reported range and altitude capabilities seem to suggest that it is intended as a medium-range ground-based air surveillance system.
To make matters more confusing, Iran also reportedly produces an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle known as the Ra’d.
Rebels fighting the regime of President Bashir al-Assad in Syria claimed to have shot down a Syrian Air Force (SAF) MiG-23BN (NATO reporting name ‘Flogger’) combat aircraft on 13th August.
The claim was dismissed by the Syrian government which says that the aircraft crashed because of ‘technical reasons’.
The aircraft was lost close to the town of al-Muhassan, near the country’s border with Iraq, and was reportedly downed using Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA).
Should the rebels have succeeded in destroying a SAF combat aircraft, it would represent an escalation in the conflict, and demonstrate that anti-Assad forces are able to challenge the air power that the Syrian leader is increasingly relying on to fight the opposition.
On 7th August, photos circulated on the internet of Syrian rebels armed with a 9K32 Strela-2 (NATO reporting name ‘SA-7 Grail’) Man-Portable Air Defence System (MANPADS).
The origin of the weapon is unknown, although it has been alleged that some MANPADS looted from the stocks of the Libyan armed forces at the end of that country’s civil war in 2011 may have found their way into the hands of Syrian rebels.
How many MANPADS rebel forces may have in their possession, and the serviceability of these weapons, remains unknown.
Deliveries of upgraded Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) for Israel’s Israel Aerospace Industries/Boeing Arrow medium-to-high altitude anti-ballistic missile system have commenced.
Arrow batteries are receiving the Block-4 variant of the SAM which includes a new radar designed to improve the accuracy of the missile.
One report from Agence France Presse noted that the Block-4 upgrade allows the Arrow battery to be “sychronised with US systems that are already in use in the region.” The report did not provide any additional details as to what this means in principle.
However, this may be a reference to the Arrow system being able to use targeting data provided by Lockheed Martin AN/TPY-2 X-band missile defence radars which are located in eastern Turkey and in Israel’s NegevDesert.
The Block-4 missile is thought to have a high degree of capability against Syrian Scud-D and Iranian Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missiles.
According to 17th July report in the Wall Street Journal, the US Department of Defense will construct an AN/TPY-2 radar at an undisclosed location in Qatar.
The new AN/TPY-2 will join a similar system based in the Negev Desert, and one which has been installed in eastern Turkey. This latter radar has been active since 1st January providing ballistic missile radar coverage as part of the first phase of NATO’s European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defence initiative.
Raytheon’s AN/TPY-2 is an X-band, transportable phased-array air search radar. According to company literature, it can be used in a Forward Base Mode to detect a ballistic missile launch, or in a Terminal Based Mode to detect incoming missiles.
There can be little doubt that the deployment of the AN/TPY-2 to Qatar is intended to provide surveillance over the Persian Gulf regarding ballistic missile launches from Iran. The Qatar radar will form the third element of the AN/TPY-2 radar chain which is watching the skies for missile launches from northern, western and now southern Iran via the deployment of the system to Qatar.