Al Jazeera & Tony Capaccio / Bloomberg – 2010-10-21 00:05:15
Largest ever US arms sale includes 84 Boeing F-15 fighter jets and more than 100 attack helicopters.
US Confirms $60 Billion Saudi Arms Deal
WASHINGTON (October 20, 2010) — The United States plans to sell up to $60 billion worth of military aircraft to Saudi Arabia, the US state department has announced, the largest US arms sale ever. Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told a news conference on Wednesday that the US administration did not anticipate any objections to the sale from Israel, traditionally wary of arms sales to nearby Arab countries.
The sale, which had been expected, includes 84 Boeing F-15 fighter jets and 70 upgrades of existing Saudi F-15s. It also includes 70 of Boeing’s Apache attack helicopters and 36 AH-6M Little Birds, lightweight helicopters often used in special operations. Under the deal, Saudi Arabia also has the option to buy 72 Black Hawk helicopters built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp.
Al Jazeera‘s John Terrett, reporting from Washington said “the Saudi’s are not getting what Israel already has, and that is the F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, the newest aircraft out there. The US congress now has 30 days to block the deal, and if they don’t, then formal negotiations about the delivery date will open up.”
Shapiro said the total value of the package would not exceed $60bn, although he emphasised that Saudi Arabia may not choose to exercise all of its purchase options during the programme, which will last from 15 to 20 years.
Alexander Vershbow, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said the US had discussed the matter with Israel, and concluded that it would not undercut Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. “We have consulted with Israel as this sale has taken shape […] based on what we’ve heard at high levels, Israel does not object to this sale,” he said.
Vershbow and Shapiro both stressed that bolstering Saudi Arabia’s own defense capabilities would improve US security in a vital part of the world where fears are growing over Iran’s nuclear program.
“This is not solely about Iran,” Shapiro said. “It’s about helping the Saudis with their legitimate security needs […] they live in a dangerous neighborhood and we are helping them preserve and protect their security. The State Department is spinning things very carefully, putting the emphasis on jobs, because this is going to preserve hundreds of thousands of US defense jobs at companies like Boeing and UTC,” our correspondent reported from Washington.
Vershbow said the sale would improve Saudi Arabia’s ability to co-ordinate with the US on shared security challenges “so it means we may have to station fewer forces on a continuing basis in the region.”
US and international concern about Iran’s growing military capability includes advances in a nuclear program the West believes is aimed at developing atomic weapons — accusations Tehran denies. Washington has also flagged concern about Iran’s growing missile capabilities and has been helping Arab states boost their missile defenses.
That includes the expected sale of the THAAD missile defense system manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp to the United Arab Emirates. Similar talks are underway with Saudi Arabia. US officials are also discussing a possible deal to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s navy, which one official estimated could be worth an additional $30 billion.
US Weapons Sale to Saudi Arabia Said to Reach $60 Billion
Tony Capaccio / Bloomberg.com
(August 13, 2010) — A proposed US weapons sale to Saudi Arabia of Boeing Co. F-15 fighter jets also includes as many as 132 Boeing Apache attack helicopters and United Technologies Corp. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters that bring the total value of the package to around $60 billion, according to a government official familiar with the plan.
The Pentagon and State Department about two weeks ago informally notified congressional committees that handle arms sales of the planned transaction, the official said.
“I think it would be the largest ever,” said William Hartung, director of the New York City-based New America Foundationâ€™s Arms and Security Initiative. “Other deals that used to be considered large,” like the $9 billion sale of 72 F-15s to the Saudis in 1992-93 or the kingdom’s $9 billion acquisition of US AWACS surveillance aircraft in 1981, “arenâ€™t even in the ballpark, even allowing for inflation,” Hartung said.
The package includes 84 F-15s at a cost of $30 billion and helicopter sales totaling about $30 billion that include spare parts, training simulators, long-term logistics support and some munitions.
The Saudis would buy about 72 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and as many as 60 AH-64D Longbow Apaches, the official said. The Longbow is the US Army’s premier anti-tank helicopter, capable of firing laser-guided or all-weather air-to-ground missiles. The Longbows are in addition to 12 that Congress in 2008 cleared Boeing to sell to the Saudis.
Fits Obama Strategy>
The proposal fits the Obama administrationâ€™s strategy of buttressing the defense capabilities of Middle East allies to counter Iranâ€™s growing offensive missile might and suspected nuclear weapons program. It would be part of the Gulf Security Dialogue started by the Bush administration.
The Longbow Apache has been sold to Egypt, Israel, Greece, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, the Royal Netherlands Air Force, Singapore and Taiwan. Northrop Grumman Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. provide the Apache’s radar and sensors. The Pentagon intends to formally notify the Senate and House foreign affairs panels by mid-September of the final arms package, the official said.
“In the past, a record-setting deal to a region of tension like the Persian Gulf would have drawn considerable congressional opposition,” Hartung said. “That does not seem to be the case this time around.”
Other Issues Dominate
“Other foreign policy issues from Iraq and Afghanistan to the consideration of the New START treaty, seem to have taken up most if not all of the attention Congress can or will spend on foreign policy matters,” Hartung said. The US Senate is scheduled to consider the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia when it returns next month from its summer recess.
Saudi Arabia’s last significant US weapons purchase was 72 F-15s in 1992, a transaction valued at as much as $9 billion. The last planes in that contract were delivered in November 1999. The kingdom spent $36.7 billion worldwide on arms and support activities from 2001 to 2008, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
Tony Capaccio in Washington firstname.lastname@example.org
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