US to ink biggest arms deal ever with Saudi Arabia: Rpt

The US plans to ink its biggest arms deal ever, estimated at USD 60 billion with S Arabia.

Last Updated: Sep 14, 2010, 00:41 AM IST

New York: The US plans to ink its biggest
arms deal ever, estimated at USD 60 billion with Saudi Arabia
in a bid to build up defences against Iran in the region.

In the next two weeks, the Obama administration will
notify the US Congress about a plan to sell USD 60 billion
worth of aircrafts to Saudi Arabia, including as many as 84
new F-15 fighters, an upgrade of 70 more, and three types of
helicopters - 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 "Little Bird"
defenders, The Wall Street Journal said on Monday.

Washington is also currently in talks with Riyadh
about potential and naval missile-defence upgrades worth tens
of billions of dollars more, according to The Wall Street
Journal, which reports that the administration plans to push
the plan as creator of at least 75,000 jobs and build up
defences against Iran in the region, the report said.

The prospect for job growth could help build support
in Congress for the USD 60 billion package, officials told the
newspaper, speaking on conditions of anonymity.

"It`s a big economic sale for the US...and the
argument is that it is better to create jobs here than in
Europe," said one person close to the talks.

A notification, which is expected to be sent to
Congress soon, will authorize the Saudis to buy as many as 84
new F-15 fighters, upgrade 70 more, and purchase three types
of helicopters?70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 Little Birds,
officials said.

Boeing Co., which makes the F-15s, the Apaches and the
Little Birds, noted that the Saudi package would directly or
indirectly support 77,000 jobs across 44 states.

Besides the USD 60 billion package, US officials are
also discussing a potential USD 30 billion package to upgrade
Saudi Arabia`s naval forces, according to The Journal.

An official described these as "discreet, bilateral
conversations" in which no agreement has yet been reached.

That deal could include littoral combat ships, surface
vessels intended for operations close to shore, the official
said.

The report further noted that current discussions also
included expansion of Saudi Arabia`s ballistic-missile
defences, with the US recommending that its key ally buy
systems known as THAAD Terminal High Altitude Defense and to
upgrade its Patriot missiles to reduce the threat from Iranian
rockets.

The US has sought to build up missile defence across
the region, and the Saudi package could be similar to one in
the United Arab Emirates, officials said.

THAAD is the first system designed to defend against
short-and intermediate-range ballistic missiles both inside
and outside the Earth`s atmosphere, the report said.

It complements the lower-aimed Patriot missile defence
system, providing a layered defence.

There exists export potential for the system in the
Middle East, where a major concern exists about Iran`s
ballistic missile development, according to officials of
Lockheed Martin Corp., which makes THAADs.

Pro-Israel lawmakers in the United States have voiced
concerns over such an arms deal with Riyadh, saying they might
"undercut Israel`s military edge and provide support to a
government with a poor human rights record.

US officials, however, have said that Israelis are
increasingly comfortable with the Saudi sale because the
planes won`t have certain long-range weapons systems.

Israel itself is in line to buy a more advanced
fighter, the F-35, and should begin to receive them around the
same time the Saudis are expected to start getting the F-15s,
they added.

"We appreciate the administration`s efforts to
maintain Israel`s qualitative military edge, and we expect to
continue to discuss our concerns with the administration about
the issues," Michael Oren, Israel`s Ambassador to the
US, was quoted by Ynetnews as saying.

PTI