US, UAE to develop tech to stop drone attacks before launch as defense ties bolster

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The US will work with the UAE and its partners in the region to develop solutions to stop drone attacks even before they are launched, General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Commander of US Central Command, said in an interview with the Emirates state media WAM.

McKenzie was on an official visit to the UAE, where he met Lt. Gen. Hamad Mohammed Thani al-Rumaithi, Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces, and addressed “several issues of common concern,” on Tuesday, according to WAM.

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“Even as the UAE has come under attack, the United States has moved quickly and swiftly to help an old friend,” McKenzie said in the interview.

“We are happy to see that THAAD [Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system] employed successfully by UAE in the first two combat employments of that system,” said the US official, referring to the latest two attacks that were attempted against the Emirates.

THAAD is a US-built anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to intercept projectiles in their terminal phase.

The UAE successfully downed three drones on a January 31 attack and another on February 2, both of which did not impact civilian life in the country.

However, the January 17 attack on an ADNOC facility killed three expats, a reported first in the UAE.

“Although the attacks on the UAE are very concerning to the US,” he said to WAM, “I think the UAE has one of the most professional militaries in the region. They’re very well-led, and I think the UAE is a very safe and secure place.”

On February 2, after the Iran-backed Houthis attempted missile attacks in the UAE, the US promised to deploy a guided missile destroyer and state-of-the-art fighter jets.

“Over the next week or so, we’re going to bring in a squadron of F-22 fighter jets,” confirmed McKenzie, adding that “we brought a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Cole, which has ballistic missile defense capabilities,” and is expected to actively patrol the UAE’s waters.

The Iran-backed militia frequently target civilian areas and energy facilities in Saudi Arabia with explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles.

These attacks have invited global condemnation and high-level talks are underway to find a solution to the recurring issue.

The collaborative defense-against-drones system called ‘Left of Launch,’ will be able to “detect the launch of drones, see them and disrupt their flight,” said McKenzie, which can be seen as progress associated with the global conversation about deterring the Houthis.

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