The U.S. Defense Department plans to sell Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates $10.8 billion in advanced weaponry, including air-launched cruise missiles and precision munitions.
Notice yesterday of the planned sales of advanced weapons made by Boeing Co. and Raytheon Co. sends a message of support from the Obama administration to two close allies in the Middle East as the U.S. and five other nations are engaged in talks to curb Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
The Saudi regime has pressed the U.S. to maintain tough economic sanctions on Iran, both to discourage it from developing a nuclear arsenal and to limit Iran’s capacity to help its embattled ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity about diplomatic relations.
The proposal includes the first U.S. sales to Middle East allies of new Raytheon and Boeing weapons that can be launched at a distance from Saudi F-15 and U.A.E. F-16 fighters.
The Boeing Expanded-Response Standoff Land Attack Missile and Raytheon Joint Standoff Weapon give those nations new capabilities to strike at air defense sites and radar installations, such as those possessed by Iran, from beyond the range of enemy air-defense systems so pilots aren’t put at risk.
The Boeing missile, a derivative of the Harpoon anti-ship missile, can be launched more than 135 nautical miles from a target and be redirected in flight. The Navy says the Raytheon missile can fly 12 to 52 nautical miles and attack industrial facilities, logistics systems and “hardened tactical targets.”
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement yesterday that it was seeking congressional approval to sell the Saudi kingdom $6.8 billion in munitions and equipment. Among the systems that would be provided are 650 of the missiles known as the SLAM-ER, 1,000 GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bombs and 400 Harpoon Block II anti-ship weapons, all made by Chicago-based Boeing; and 973 of the Joint Standoff Weapons made by Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon.
The U.A.E. would be able to buy $4 billion in weapons, including 5,000 of the GBU-39/B bombs, 1,200 Joint Standoff weapons and 300 of the SLAM-ER missiles, the Pentagon said in a separate statement.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in April outlined $10 billion in arms sales to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. The Pentagon proposal included an offer to sell Israel a fleet of V-22 tiltrotor aircraft.
Yesterday’s announcement by the Pentagon offers details of the munitions that the Saudis and Emiratis are seeking.
In April, after Hagel’s announcement, defense officials began a process of consultation with the countries leading to “letters of request” from the buyers and negotiations on pricing and availability of weapons.
The Pentagon’s notification to Congress, which was dated Oct. 11, began a 30-day period of review by lawmakers and comes after a 20-day informal notice to Congress. The sales can go ahead unless Congress acts to block them.
Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. already are among the largest buyers of U.S. weapons. In 2011, the Obama administration signed a $29.4 billion deal with Saudi Arabia to sell 84 Boeing-made F-15 jets and upgrade 70 planes already owned by the kingdom. The Obama administration also has sold the U.A.E. an advanced missile defense system called the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense made by Lockheed Martin Corp.