WASHINGTON A multibillion-dollar missile defense system owned by the United Arab Emirates and developed by the United States military intercepted a ballistic missile on Monday, marking the system's first known use in a military operation, Defense News has learned.
According to two sources, the, made by, took out the midrange ballistic missile used to attack an Emirati oil facility near Al-Dhafra Air Base.
The attack, which involved cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and drones, threw three civilians dead, wounded six others, according to UAE's ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba.
"Several attacks, a combination of cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and drones, aimed at civilian sites in the United Arab Emirates. Several were intercepted, a few of them [werent], and three innocent civilians unfortunately lost their lives," said Al Otaiba at a virtual event.
The Emirati Embassy in Washington has not responded immediately to a request for comment.
The UAE was a key member of the Saudi-led coalition that entered Yemen's civil war in 2015, when the Houthis had overrun Yemen's capital, removing the country's president from power.
On Friday, the US Central Command confirmed that a potential inbound threat had forced US service members into their bunkers in a heightened alert posture for about 30 minutes. Airmen were instructed to keep their protective gear close for 24 hours thereafter.
Everything was professional and disciplined, said Capt. Bill Urban, a command official. There was no mission impact.
Lockheed Martin has declined to comment.
THAAD, a tactical army fire unit developed in the 1990s, but failed in early testing.
After 16 successful intercept tests, the Missile Defense Agency had demonstrated its strength.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia agreed to buy THAAD in a contract that would cost up to $15 billion. The UAE was the first foreign customer for the system and trained its first units in 2015 and 2016.
The Army has already managed seven THAAD batteries, but has long had a requirement to finish nine units. The MDA has lacked the funding to build the final two, but US legislators have added funds to the budget to build an eighth THAAD battery.
Over the course of Yemen's war, the Houthis have used drones and missiles to attack Saudi Arabia and oil targets in the Persian Gulf. Monday's attack is the UAE's first acknowledgement of being hit by the Houthis.
According to a tweet the UAE's Embassy in Washington, this week, Abu Dhabi has asked the US for help in its defenses against missiles and drones and halting ammunition from being transported to the Houthis.
In a joint conversation on Wednesday with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Austin emphasised his unwavering interest in UAE territory's security and defense against all threats.
Abu Dhabi was also consulting with congressional gatekeepers on US arms sales this week, according to the embassy. Al Otaiba met Wednesday with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y.
Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: Well see what their request is. I certainly recognize some of the challenges theyre having.
According to congressional advisers, lawmakers are generally open to Abu Dhabi's demands for weapons to defend against Houthi attacks, but Emirati officials are likely to face questions about the country's growing ties to China, and accusations its forces have intervened in Libya's ongoing conflict.
According to a Senate adviser, US officials should consider the capabilities and production limits of equipment Abu Dhabi is requesting. If the UAE is seeking Patriot missiles, there's a possible interceptor shortage fueled by Houthi drone and rocket attacks against Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis are using their Patriots at a good clip, and these things dont matter to you, according to the aide. Hey, the Emiratis may be asking for things very appropriately, but before anything comes from it and arrives in the country, it may be years.
Iran, like Gulf Arab states, as well as US, United Nations, and others, have previously accused Iran of sending weapons to the Houthis, according to a statement Tehran denied.
Alistair Shaddhid, a former Pentagon official who is now at the Middle East Institute, said the Houthis' use of missiles signifies Iranian involvement, even after diplomatic talks in Tehran.
Clearly those discussions were ineffective, Saab said. The very use of ballistic missiles signals to me that the Iranians knew about it, were on board or at least had a role.
After the attacks, President Joe Biden said Wednesday that his administration is considering restoring the Houthis to the US list of international terrorist organizations.
Al Otaiba had urged the move, and the Emirati Embassy was pleased with it in a statement that said: Case is clear launching ballistic and cruise missiles against civilian targets, sustaining aggression, and diverting aid from Yemeni people.
Agnes Helou of Beirut and The Associated Press have contributed to this publication.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News, as well as a journalist at Inside Defense.
Joe Gould, a senior Pentagon reporter, is a reporter for Defense News covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.