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Wed 29 Jun 2011 07:49 AM

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MidEast states fly military jets disguised as commercial planes

Jets, equipped with surveillance technology, are painted to look like commercial airlines

MidEast states fly military jets disguised as commercial planes
(Getty Images)

Middle East military jets equipped with state-of-the-art
surveillance technology are being disguised as commercial aircraft to enable
them to operate discreetly, defence experts told Arabian Business.

“Because of the sensitivity of the customers in the region
and their desires, those sensors also fly on things that look like commercial
airplanes,” said James Hvizd, vice president of space and airborne systems at

“When I say commercial aircraft I just mean things that
wouldn’t look like a military asset in an airfield. So if a country wants to be
a little discrete about what they are using to go look for, those assets they
would like that to look like a white airplane or painted commercial airplane
but the sensors are, of course, ensconced inside the airframe.”

The aircraft are often equipped with Raytheon’s latest wide
area sensors, which are attached to the aircraft and can be used to scan land
terrain below as the aircraft fly over a large area.

“That allows them to use the capabilities we have but not
necessarily in a military sense, but put it on platforms to allow them to
operate more securely and somewhat under the radar,” Hvizd added.

Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based
Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said such practices were
indeed likely to occur in the Middle East. “There seems to be an
interconnectivity between the civil and military sectors when it comes to
navigating the skies,” Karasik added.

US firm Raytheon, the world’s largest missile maker, said it
has not seen any cancellations of international bookings in recent months and
added that it still expects contracts to land in the second half.

"We've not seen anything disappear," Raytheon CEO
William Swanson told Reuters. "We expect the back half to be the better
part of the year" in terms of international business, he said.

Raytheon has said it expects to sign contracts with Taiwan
and Kuwait for Patriot missiles in the latter half of the year.

The US defence giant this month inked a $1.7bn deal with
Saudi Arabia to upgrade the kingdom’s missile defence system.

International revenue accounted for 25 percent of total
Raytheon sales in the first quarter

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