Gulf oil producers have completed the first phase of a joint air defence system that allows them to exchange data on flight activity in their skies and face possible threats.
The US Raytheon company has supplied the software and other equipment for the Hizam Al Taawon (belt of co-operation) in the six nation (GCC) after long negotiations, a senior Raytheon official said.
"The Hizam Al Taawon is now in place… it is an early warning system that allows member states to share data on flight activity in their skies," said Joseph Garrett, Vice-President, Patriot Programmes, Raytheon.
"But they have not yet moved beyond that stage… they still do not have a centralised command control for aircraft but there were discussion of this project at a conference in Abu Dhabi last December… I think the UAE could be the intellectual leader in the discussion of this system."
Raytheon officials said GCC states – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman – could largely bolster their defence capability if they move to the second phase of Hizam Al Taawon. "This second stage could be a major step in their defence co-operation… it involves a joint command and operations control and allows them to closely co-ordinate their defences in case of emergency or aggression," one official said.
"For example, if a hostile aircraft intrudes into Oman's space, this command can detect the aircraft and give orders to the nearest airbase to intercept it… or if there is a missile targeting a GCC member, the joint command can detect its exact location and direct the nearest base to shoot it down."