US to notify Congress about Saudi Arabia arms deal

13 September 2010

Saudi Arabia is progressing with $60bn plan to boost its defence systems

The US government is expected to notify Congress within one week about a potential $60bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

The government is in talks with the kingdom about potential naval and missile defence upgrades. Saudi Arabia sent a letter of request to the US to purchase the military aircraft in the summer. Congress is expected to be notified either this week or next week and the Obama administration will then authorise Saudi Arabia to buy about 84 new Boeing F-15 fighters and purchase three types of helicopters including 70 Boeing Apaches, 36 Little Birds and 72 Black Hawks.

The deal is seen as a way of shoring up defence in the Gulf. The United States is expected to sign a deal in mid-2011 to sell the UAE an estimated $7bn missile defense system from Lockheed Martin (MEED 2:9:10).

The US is also discussing a possible $30bn package that would involve a complete upgrade of the kingdom’s naval forces, which could include littoral combat ships and surface vessels.

Talks are also under way to expand Saudi Arabia’s ballistic-missile defences. The US is encouraging the kingdom to buy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems and to upgrade its Patriot missiles to reduce the threat from Iranian rockets.

THAAD is built by Lockheed Martin Corp and US-based Raytheon supplies the system’s radar.

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.

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