Lockheed Martin interview: Charles W. Moore

Lockheed Martin CEO on Gulf countries efforts to boost their military arsenal

According to the latest Global Militarisation Index by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC), the Middle East is the most militarised region in the world, with all of its countries ranked among the top 40 and three of the six Gulf states in the top ten. Kuwait is considered the most militarised in the GCC, in seventh position globally, followed by Bahrain (ninth) and Saudi Arabia (tenth).

The high rankings were as a result of a dramatic increase in foreign weapon sales by the US to Gulf states, which tripled in 2011 to $66.3bn, as regional governments sought to build up their military supplies amid growing tensions with Iran. The sales reached a record high, up from $21.4bn in 2010 and $31bn in 2009, according to a study by the US Congressional Research Service.

“I would just say, once again, that for the specific rationale for requirements you have to ask them [local governments],” Moore says. “Frankly, it doesn’t have much at all to do with the Arab Spring.”

“From where we stand, it makes sense… These countries are serious about their security and are seeking to defend themselves. They are seeking to partner with the US and UK and other allies that are linked together for many years to help them with this effort.”

The US and the EU have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Iran to pressure it to give up its uranium enrichment programme. America and its allies believe Iran is looking to build nuclear weapons and despite the state's claim that the programme is for civilian purposes, the confusion and perceived possible threat has been a catalyst for Gulf States to boost their defence forces.

“Integrated air and missile defence [sales] are growing and it is growing in response to the threat that is emerging. That threat is coming principally from Iran. You have the threat of ballistic missiles, the threat of cruise missiles, and the threat from aircraft,” Moore says.

“I have been here and operated here for many years. In the last few years, the worry about that threat has increased significantly. As you have read in the newspapers, this region right now is very tense and the guys who are running the countries are paying attention to that and they are making investments to protect themselves.

“So a company like ours has the capability, if you look at our portfolio, that is perfectly aligned to their requirements. So that doesn’t surprise us that they are investing to meet these threats.”

In terms of what Gulf countries are interested in, Moore says there are two core areas: aircraft and integrated missile defence systems. “We are still selling F-16 [aircraft] throughout the region and we have sold some recently in Iraq and Oman. The C-130 has been in continued construction for nearly 60 years and that is an airplane everyone loves and we have sold a lot of them. And we expect to sell a lot more.”

While Patriot missiles, Patriot systems and Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missiles are also in demand, new advanced technology, which is still in development, is also proving popular. Lockheed Martin is currently developing a silent supersonic commercial business jet and is aiming to launch the technology within the next few years in order to cater to demand from Arab jet owners.

“I can tell you that we do a tremendous amount of research… One of the things we are always trying to figure out is how can you drive the [aircraft] airframe through the air mass supersonically and not have a sonic boom impact on the ground,” Moore says.

“We are researching it; we are developing it, looking at it, exploring it… I suspect some day we may see an airplane that has the ability to travel supersonically quietly,” he adds.

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