As negotiations over Iran's nuclear ambitions continue, it should be noted that in the event of an Iranian missile launch, neighboring Middle Eastern countries only have four minutes of reaction time. Some Gulf States do have Patriot Missile Defense systems, but the equipment isn’t compatible with one another–making the building of a missile defense shield in the region a moot point at present. Defense One reported that rivalries and concerns about cyber espionage have become obstacles in this matter:
If Iran launches a ballistic missile at the Middle East, nuclear or not, Arab states would have as little as four minutes to act before impact.
While the missile’s target may be in Saudi Arabia, it would travel over UAE, Qatar or Kuwait. America’s friends have sophisticated, American-made missile interceptors. But there’s one problem, the equipment in one country does not talk to the equipment in another. So, the United States is renewing its push during this week’s Gulf Cooperation Council summit outside Washington to get Arab states to link-up the missile interceptors and radars into a single Middle East missile shield.
“You can’t just buy lots of interceptors and park them in the desert,” said Thomas Karako, a missile defense expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS. “You’ve got to stitch them together into the network and give them plenty of early warning and sensor information so they know where to shoot.”
GCC members are united in their fear of nuclear missile attacks from Iran, but regional politics, military rivalries and even cyber espionage concerns have blocked them from setting up an intertwined missile defense shield akin to what NATO has built in Europe. There, alliance members have been beefing up missile defenses to protect the continent from long-range Iranian missiles.
“The difference is that you don’t have NATO in the Middle East,” Karako said. “Really the prerequisite to serious cooperation, to serious interoperability and integration is and always has been the lack of political integration and … security integration like you have with NATO.”
Saudi Arabia purchased $2 billion worth of Patriots last month and Qatar signed a $2.4 billion deal for interceptors in December. As Patriot orders have come in from the Middle East and elsewhere, Raytheon has funded upgrade and improvement projects for the missile.
UAE also has purchased the THAAD interceptors, built by Lockheed Martin, and are supposed to get them by the end of the year. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also reportedly interested in THAAD.
The U.S. has 10 Patriot batteries deployed in the region, including one in Jordan to defend against a possible missile attack from Syria.
But while the Gulf States have purchases top-end missile interceptors, they do not have the sophisticated radars and satellites that the Pentagon uses to track ballistic missiles.
The missile defense shield NATO has designed is detailed here:
The Patriot Missile Defense system in action during the Persian Gulf War: