A Barak-8 missile being test-fired from an Israeli warship

Weapons from Israel could serve as an interim solution for Abu Dhabi

The missile and drone attacks on the UAE by Houthi rebels over the past two weeks have been considered a watershed moment in the region's geopolitics.

While the attacks marked a significant escalation of the threat posed by the Houthis to the Gulf states, the strikes may have pushed the UAE to seek help from an unlikely partner: Israel.

US news site Breaking Defence reported on Tuesday that the UAE had “quietly and unofficially asked Israel about acquiring missile defence systems to help protect it from Houthi missile attacks”.

Breaking Defence reported that weapons from Israel could serve as an interim solution for the UAE before it takes delivery of a South Korean surface-to-air missile system by 2024. “An Israeli source told Breaking Defence that three operational systems, or a combination of the three, could be a partial answer until the South Korean system comes online: Israeli Aerospace Industry’s Barak 8 or Barak ER, or the Rafael Spyder,” Breaking Defence reported.

Interestingly, the Barak-8 was jointly developed by Israel's Ministry of Defence and the DRDO and is in service with the militaries of India and Israel. The Barak-8 has a range of around 70km and can intercept aircraft, low-flying anti-ship and cruise missiles and stealthy targets. It exists in both sea-launched and land-based configurations.

The Barak ER (extended range) is a variant of the Barak-8 that is larger as it has an additional rocket booster, giving it a range of 150km. In addition to dealing with cruise missiles and aircraft, the Barak ER is capable of intercepting tactical ballistic missiles, which typically have ranges of less than 500km.

The Barak-8 was exported by Israel to Azerbaijan, which, reportedly, used the weapon in its conflict with Armenia in 2020 to shoot down a Russian-made ballistic missile fired by Armenia.

The SPYDER is a weapon system that combines in a surface-launched configuration two Israeli-developed missiles, the Python-5 and Derby, that were originally designed for air-to-air combat. While the Python-5 is a short-range heat-seeking missile, the Derby is a medium-range radar-guided missile. The Indian Air Force already operates the SPYDER system, which can shoot down a range of threats such as aircraft, cruise missiles, UAVs and even bombs launched by aircraft.

The UAE is not the first country to eye Israeli weaponry to deal with the Houthi threat. Last year, Breaking Defence reported Saudi Arabia was considering buying either the Barak ER or Iron Dome missiles to counter Houthi UAVs and cruise missiles.

Earlier this month, The Jerusalem Post, an Israeli media outlet, reported Morocco was in talks to buy the Barak-8 missile.