'GCC needs integrated missile defence shield'

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) needs robust defence networks and comprehensive solutions that are practical and not theoretical, Dr Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, GCC Secretary-General, said on Wednesday in his keynote speech at the third edition of the Middle East Missile and Air Defence Symposium (Memad).

The two-day event was held at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi and organised by the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (Inegma).

Explaining "The GCC vision for a regional missile defence shield", Al Zayani said: "In war time the most important thing is a civil defence system. Our success will depend on the strength of our defences. We hope all Gulf countries will be ready to cooperate to solve international and regional problems".

He continued: "Building a comprehensive plan for a missile defense shield is an important strategy for protecting all our countries. Cooperation sends a strong message to our allies and enemies. What about our ability to defend against a chemical or biological attack? We should be asking the question: are our air defences suitable? We have to work more and more especially if we need to build confidence to defend against threats and enemies.

''We need to develop an integrated missile defence shield. We are asking our allies to help us individually and collectively. The shield (as a solution) should be flexible and comprehensive. It should be a workable solution and not theoretical," he added.

Riad Kahwaji, Inegma CEO, opened the conference.

Kahwaji stated: "Missile and air defence are essential capabilities that ought to be on the top of priority list of all modern armies. It is no secret that if there were to be any future military confrontation in the region, ballistic and cruise missiles would be the number one threat to Arab Gulf states. The ability of these missiles to carry non-conventional warheads elevates the threat level to an existential and strategic one."

He added: "Inegma has chosen missile defense as a main topic for its chain of defence conferences out of its appreciation to the importance of this subject to regional militaries of the Middle East, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council."

Staff Brigadier General Majed Al Nuaimi from the UAE Air Force, gave the welcome speech. He stated that "the missile threat to the GCC is a growing threat and at a high volume."

As evidence, Brigadier General Al Nuaimi argued that: "A fully integrated C4ISR system would bring together all assets. As such the U.S.-UAE cooperation and regional cooperation is a key to future integration."

The second keynote speech was given by Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, Commander of the U.S. Missile Defence Agency. He stated: "The threat from short and medium range missiles is the biggest threat today."

He maintained: "The value of the sensor is critical for fire control and this is the very basis for having good missile defense."

The first session chaired by Orville Prins, Vice President of the international business development at Lockheed Martin missiles and fire control, featured three speakers.

Lieutenant General David Goldfein, Commander, US Air Force Central Command delivered a lecture about "The regional integrated air and missile defence: The U.S. role."

He explained that the Integrated Air and Missile Defence Centre conducts academic air and missile defense seminars and provides a "Battle Lab" that enables realistic training. He added: "In order to execute as an integrated team, we need to build and execute a single Air Tasking Order together as well as establish clear communication to senior leadership for attribution, assessment and action."

Major General (Ret) Khaled Abdullah Al Bu Ainnain, Former Commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defense and President of INEGMA, discussed "The GCC challenges in defending against cruise and ballistic missile threats".

He reviewed ballistic and cruise missile threats to the GCC noting the short time respond period to "takeout" incoming missiles and also the tightening Circular Error of Probability (CEP) as these weapons become more modernised. He stated: "That there are many vital GCC major vital assets must be protected and that there needs to be a wider GCC Defence Agreement to explore deeper missile defence."

Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, Commander of the U.S. Missile Defence Agency spoke on "Ballistic missile defense overview". He asserted that  "ballistic missile proliferation is the growing threat of the present and future. There is also concern about security of these weapons and the fact that can be stolen."

 The second session chaired by Major General (Ret) Khaled Abdullah Al Bu Ainnain, featured three speakers.

Vice Admiral Mark Fox, Commander of the fifth Fleet, NAVCENT, USA, briefed on "Integrated air and missile defence from the sea".

Admiral Fox added: "The key philosophy that we adopt is 'Defence in Depth' that is to use as many components to target and destroy as many incoming assets as well as mobile assets as possible. Only through the Aegis BMD does the U.S. Navy support all of the characteristics of a regional IAMD architecture."

Brigadier General Jean Luc Combrisson, Director for the Middle East and Africa of the French Defence Procurement Agency, examined "The emerging tactical ballistic missile challenges and countermeasures" He stressed that the French Early warning programme and the Aster System represent cost effective solutions and are based on modular, flexible and interoperable architectures. They will also provide autonomous capabilities adapted to today and expected future threat of interest especially in the Gulf area.

Major General Gary Cheek, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Central Command, gave a lecture on "Harnessing command and battle management in which he explained the planning and exercises to develop a common war fighting plan which is then exercised with full participation from all partners. He added: "We can communicate, share and pass targets between systems, organisations and nations."

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