The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) last week notified Congress of another massive sale to Gulf countries by American companies. Saudi Arabia is buying air-launched weapons worth $6.8 billion for its new F-15SA Strike Eagles; the UAE is buying air-launched weapons worth $4 billion for its F-16s. The main U.S. contractors to benefit are Boeing (providing SLAM-ER and Harpoon missiles and small-diameter bombs) and Raytheon (providing JSOW missiles and Paveway “smart” bombs).
The U.S. intention to supply “advanced standoff weapons” to Saudi Arabia and the UAE was revealed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last April, shortly before the first F-15SA was rolled out at Boeing’s St. Louis factory. The $30 billion sale of 84 new Strike Eagles to the Saudis, in addition to upgrading of their current 70-strong F-15S fleet, which concluded in December 2011, was the largest-ever U.S. export weapons package. It already included 300 AIM-9X and 500 AIM-120C AAMs; 600 AGM-88 Harm ASMs; 400 AGM-84B Harpoon Block II AShMs; 4,100 laser and/or GPS-guided bombs; 1,300 CBU-105D/B sensor-fused weapons; and 3,000 Mk 82/84 bombs.
The same 400 Harpoons also appear in the newly announced F-15SA weapons package, which additionally includes 973 Raytheon AGM-154C joint standoff weapons (JSOWs); 650 Boeing AGM-84H standoff land attack missiles–extended response (SLAM-ERs); and 1,000 Boeing GBU-39/B small-diameter bombs (SDBs). The Royal Saudi Air Force will also be boosted by a separate U.S. aircraft maintenance and support package worth $1.2 billion that was notified last August.
The UAE Air Force will acquire 1,200 JSOWs, 300 SLAM-ERs and 5,000 SDBs for its fleet of 60 F-16E/F Block 60 fighters. Last April, Pentagon officials said that the UAE would be buying another 25 F-16 Block 60s, but no formal notification of the sale has been made.
“The proposed sale of these weapons will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” the DSCA asserted. Last April, a senior official told journalists at a Pentagon briefing, “There will be enhanced end-use monitoring…and consultation before any of [these] weapons’ deployment.”