U.S. Said to Approve Selling Saudis $1.29 Billion in Smart Bombs

Harrier GR9 with Paveway IV

A Paveway laser-guided bomb, built by Raytheon beneath an RAF Harrier GR9.

Source: MoD/Crown Copyright
  • Proposed sale includes up to 13,000 Boeing and Raytheon bombs
  • Deal reflects U.S. vow to bolster Gulf allies after Iran deal

A proposed $1.29 billion sale of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia includes as many as 13,000 smart bombs and spare parts made by Boeing Co. and Raytheon Co., according to officials.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which administers foreign arms sales, notified lawmakers Friday that the State Department had approved the deal, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified before an announcement planned for Monday. The deal can move forward unless Congress rejects it within 30 days.

Lawmakers already have been given informal briefings on the sales, which reflect President Barack Obama’s pledge to bolster U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia and other Sunni allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council after his administration engineered a deal with their Shiite rival Iran on curbing its nuclear program in exchange for easing economic sanctions.

The weapons include Joint Direct Attack Munitions with GPS satellite guidance from Chicago-based Boeing, one of the U.S.’s most precise weapons. The first JDAMs for sale to the kingdom were approved in 2008. Also included would be a resupply of Paveway laser-guided bombs that Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon first sold to the Saudis in 2011.

The bombs are in part intended to replenish Saudi inventories expended in its air operations against Islamic State in Syria and rebels in Yemen.

Bombing Campaign

The Saudis have led a bombing campaign in Yemen that started in March aimed at rolling back Houthi rebel gains and reinstating the ousted government. The Houthis still control much of Yemen, a country that lies along key shipping routes.

Human Rights Watch has said Saudi “airstrikes have indiscriminately killed and injured civilians” in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, and other locations. Though some U.S. officials have questioned the Saudi intervention, the Obama administration has provided intelligence and targeting information for the airstrikes.

At least 2,355 civilians have been killed and almost 5,000 wounded since the coalition airstrikes began in March, according to the United Nations, whose efforts to broker a peace deal have failed.

Avoiding Civilians

One official said there was a belief within the U.S. government that providing the Saudis with more precision-guided weapons will improve the ability of its pilots to avoid killing civilians.

But the scope of the sale and delivery over several years indicates it’s part of broader, continuing U.S cooperation, the official said.

Congress in September allowed the administration to proceed with a potential second sale to the kingdom of 600 Patriot-PAC-3 air defense missiles made by Lockheed Martin Corp. in a potential $5.4 billion deal. That’s in addition to a prior sale of 202 missiles.

In October, the Pentagon notified Congress of a planned sale to Saudi Arabia of as many as four Littoral Combat Ships made by Lockheed for $11.25 billion.

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