By Joanna Hartley
Sheikh Khalifa pledges to modernise forces with 'sophisticated' equipment.
The Emirates was determined to modernise its armed forces and to establish an “advanced” deterrent system, said the UAE president on the eve of the opening of a defence conference in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Khalifa reiterated the UAE’s plans to modernise its military, first set out in a speech on the federation’s 37th anniversary in December, and to protect its people using the world’s most sophisticated equipment.
Speaking before Sunday's opening of the IDEX annual conference and exhibition he said:“The military strategy of the UAE and its plans for building an integrated, strong defence system are based on determination to protect its higher interests, defend the nation," according to WAM news agency.
“We will forge ahead with our drive to back our strategic plans and modernisation of our armed forces…..with the most sophisticated equipment and weaponry ever produced by the world defence industry,” Sheikh Khalifa added.
Modernisation plans for the military have been drawn up in response to regional threats, with particular emphasis on anti-missile defence technologies, plus upgrades for the navy and land forces, he said.
In December the UAE signed deals totalling nearly $4bn with two major US defence firms, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, according to UAE daily The National.
The deals include an advanced version of the Patriot anti-missile system that will be up and running by the UAE Air Force by 2011.
Defence experts say anti-missile systems are vital for the UAE and other GCC states because a the number of countries in the Middle East that have large stocks of ballistic missiles.
Increased naval power is also seen as important to ensure the security of the Arabian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, which sees 20 to 40 percent of the world’s daily oil shipments.
The UAE has been developing a 72-metre battleship destined to be at the forefront of country’s naval power and six Baynunah class missile corvettes are being built by Abu Dhabi Ship Building company.