Huge U.S. Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia Pending
Reports from Washington suggest that a new arms package being assembled for Saudi Arabia could reach record proportions, as much as $60 billion. Another 80-plus F-15 fighters could be offered, along with about 70 UH-60 Black Hawk and up to 60 AH-64 Apache helicopters. While heavily promoting the F-15SE Silent Eagle in recent media briefings, Boeing officials have been notably reluctant to discuss the pending F-15 sale to Saudi Arabia. There are undoubtedly some major arms export policy issues involved in such a sale, as U.S. government officials weigh the merits of boosting Saudi Arabia's armed forces as a counter to Iranian expansionism and possible acquisition of nuclear weapons, against the inevitable objections from Israel, and other concerns. Boeing might not be cleared to supply the full F-15SE package, which includes active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, enhanced electronic warfare systems, and internal weapons carriage to reduce the radar cross-section. As for the helicopters, the Saudi army aviation command previously received small quantities only of UH-60As and AH-64As. The sale of 60 more Black Hawks would presumably end a Saudi flirtation with Russia, which offered to supply a large quantity of Mil Mi-17s. Of possible relevance to the pending U.S. deal, British Defence Minister Dr. Liam Fox recently postponed a visit to Saudi Arabia because no Saudi officials were available to meet with him. Fox was expected to discuss the sale of a second batch of Eurofighter Typhoons to the Kingdom. The first batch comprises 72 aircraft, of which 24 are being delivered from the UK production line at Warton. The remaining 48 are supposed to be assembled in-country in a new facility at Taif airbase. But AIN believes that this plan has fallen behind schedule. BAE did not respond to AIN's request for clarification.