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CENTCOM commander confirms UAE successfully used THAAD

A launcher from one of the THAAD systems the US Army deployed to Saudi Arabia in 2019. CENTCOM has confirmed that an Emirati THAAD successfully intercepted a ballistic missile before a US one. (378th Air Expeditionary Wing)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has twice used its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to intercept missiles, General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on 8 February.

“We are happy to see that THAAD … employed successfully by the UAE in the first two combat employments of that system,” Gen McKenzie said in an interview with the country's official WAM news agency.

The UAE is the only export user of the THAAD, which is designed to intercept ballistic missiles before they re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. It has two systems: one located to defend the energy industry at Al-Ruwais, and the other about 40 km northeast of Abu Dhabi city.

A successful Emirati THAAD interception was previously reported against a ballistic missile launched by the Yemeni rebel group Ansar Allah (Houthis) on 17 January.

The group said it launched a Zulfiqar ballistic missile against Dubai International Airport on that day, as well as cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) against targets in Abu Dhabi. Three people were killed when a cruise missile hit an industrial area on the southwest side of the city.

That was the first in a series of long-range attacks on the UAE, with Ansar Allah saying it launched ballistic missiles and UAVs, but no cruise missiles, on 24 and 31 January, respectively. The UAE Ministry of Defence (MoD) and CENTCOM reported intercepting the ballistic missiles on both occasions. The US military has Patriot air-defence systems deployed at Al Dhafra Air Base, south of Abu Dhabi city.

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