Israel has agreed to sell an advanced air defense system to the United Arab Emirates, Reuters reported Friday, citing two unidentified sources with knowledge of the matter.
The SPYDER mobile interceptors made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are capable of defending against various types of aircraft and threats including drones and cruise missiles. The report said the deal was struck over the summer.
Another source told Reuters that Abu Dhabi had bought Israeli systems that can counter drone attacks that are a threat to the UAE.
The report did not say when the system was expected to be delivered to the Gulf nation.
Early this year, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels launched several missile and drone attacks targeting the UAE, leading to reports that Israel was considering selling defensive systems to the Emiratis.
The UAE is part of a Saudi-led military coalition that supports Yemen’s government against the Houthis. In 2019, the UAE withdrew its troops from Yemen, but it remains an influential player.
This year has seen multiple reports that Israel and its regional allies are working on developing a joint defense system to protect against the threat of Iranian drones and missiles.
Israeli Air Force officials have told Israeli outlets anonymously that Jerusalem was working on the prospective alliance with its Middle East partners, and the countries have also recently developed joint systems for detecting missile and drone threats.
And in June, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that an “already in action” air defense pact between Israel and its regional allies had served to thwart Iran in ways he did not disclose.
“I have been leading for the past year together with my colleagues at the Pentagon and the [Biden] administration an extensive program to strengthen cooperation between Israel and the countries of the region, under American leadership and CENTCOM,” Gantz told lawmakers.
“Part of that vision is what I call MEAD, Middle East Air Defense, which we are building amid Iran’s attempts to hit the region’s countries with rockets, cruise missiles and UAVs,” he said.
The notion of a joint air defense system between Israel and its Arab neighbors was raised during the Negev Summit of foreign ministers from Israel, the US, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt in March. It was also reportedly discussed in talks between the US and Saudi Arabia.
Israeli military officials have said they have seen an increase in Iranian use of drone attacks in recent years, dubbing it Iran’s “UAV terror.” The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed it intercepted at least four Iranian drones heading for Israel or the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years. Another two drones launched from Iran en route to Israel were intercepted by US jets over Iraq in February.
The IDF believes Iran is attempting to arm all of its proxies in the region — in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen — with hundreds and even thousands of UAVs, in addition to providing military training.