The deal is the single priciest US arms sale to a foreign country, dwarfing previous multibillion-dollar sales to Saudi Arabia, for years the biggest US arms buyer.
The sale includes the 84 advanced Boeing F-15SA fighters with cutting-edge Raytheon radar equipment and digital electronic warfare systems for which BAE Systems is the key supplier.
Also included are upgrades that will bring Saudi Arabia’s 70 older F-15s up to the new standard, as well as HARM AGM-88 Anti-Radiation Missiles, Laser JDAM and Enhanced Paveway munitions and related equipment and services.
The deal was formally sealed by Saudi Arabia last Saturday, days before Iran repeated threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to mounting US and European economic sanctions over its disputed nuclear program.
Administration officials described the advanced F-15s as designed to bolster overall Saudi defenses in an uncertain region.
“In the Middle East right now, there’s a number of threats,” Andrew Shapiro, Assistant US secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, told a news briefing. “Clearly one of the threats that they face, as well as other countries in the region, is Iran,” he said.
But the sale was “not solely directed” toward Iran, Shapiro said. “This is directed toward meeting our partner Saudi Arabia’s defense needs,” he said.
The Obama administration in October 2010 notified Congress of the proposed F-15 sale as part of a potential package valued at up to $60 billion over 10 to 15 years, including Boeing Apache AH-64 attack helicopters, munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics.
The first new F-15s are expected to be delivered to Saudi Arabia in early 2015, an administration release said.
The Head of Boeing’s Military Business, Dennis Muilenburg, said the deliveries would take about five years to complete, extending the F-15 production line toward the end of this decade. The first modified Saudi F-15s are expected to enter overhaul in mid-to-late 2014.
Saudi Arabia was the biggest buyer of US arms from January 1, 2007 through the end of 2010, with signed agreements totaling $ 13.8 billion, according to a December 15 Congressional Research Service report.
A White House spokesman said the deal would give the US economy a $3.5 billion annual boost and bolster exports and jobs. Boeing will work with about 600 suppliers in 44 states.
The Saudi buildup, part of a wider US arming of its regional friends and allies, could eventually help offset the departure this month of the last US combat troops in Iraq.
Muilenburg said separate deals had been signed since the package cleared Congress last year to provide Saudi Arabia an initial 36 of 70 planned Apache AH-64D Longbow attack helicopters.
The full total of F-15s, Apaches and 36 AH-6i helicopters, if purchased as planned, would yield Boeing and its industry partners about $24 billion in sales, he said.
Source: Khaleej Times