U.S. to Sell F-15 Fighters to Saudi Arabia
• F-15 Sale to Saudi Arabia Part of Broader Effort
• Saudi F-15s tip of $123B gulf arms plan
• The $30 billion sale of 84 advanced Boeing F-15SA fighters and upgrades for 70 older models is a major component of a far wider U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia that's worth $63 billion and aimed at countering Iran.
But even that mega-deal is dwarfed by what the Financial Times calls "one of the largest re-armament exercises in peacetime history" -- the sale of advanced weapons worth $122.88 billion to the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf, all to smother Iran's expansionist aims.
Washington's announcement of the F-15 deal Thursday was apparently timed to coincide with major Iranian naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.
These are widely seen as a warning by Tehran it will seek to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the only way in and out of the gulf and a key oil artery, if the West imposes new sanctions to throttle Iraq's oil exports.
The $63 billion, 10-year U.S. arms package for Saudi Arabia, which includes helicopters, missiles, precision-guided munitions and tanks, was unveiled in 2007 and is now kicking in.
The sales to the gulf monarchies, along with a projected arms deal with Iraq worth $11 billion, are intended to underline the Americans' commitment to protect the region's Arab oil states from Iran as it allegedly strives to develop nuclear weapons.
The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, which was completed a couple of weeks ago, has alarmed the Saudis and their partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The gulf monarchies' concern was heightened by the way the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama abandoned one of the Americans' staunchest Arab allies, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
Mubarak was driven from office by unprecedented street protests in February in the early phase of the political upheavals that have convulsed the Arab world since January 2011.
Saudi Arabia is Iran's archrival in the gulf region. The kingdom, like the other GCC states, is dominated by Sunni Muslims, the main Muslim sect. Iran is controlled by the breakaway Shiite sect. The two have been locked in a religious feud since the seventh century.
Tensions between the two camps in the gulf have been rising steadily in recent years.
The Obama administration recently accused Iran's Revolutionary Guards of involvement in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, a charge Tehran denies.
Saudi Arabia has the largest military forces in the region. But like its GCC partners, has little or no combat experience.
These states, particularly the United Arab Emirates, are heavily reliant on foreign technicians to keep their complex weapons systems functioning -- and have even had to depend on Pakistani pilots to man their frontline squadrons in the past because of manpower problems.
The United Arab Emirates has in recent years built up a formidable air force with considerable striking power.
Military analysts in the gulf say the emirates, dominated by economic powerhouse Abu Dhabi, has signed contracts for military hardware totaling $35 billion-$40 billion, mostly with the United States and France.
U.S. officials reported Thursday Abu Dhabi has signed a $3.59 billion deal with the Lockheed Martin Corp. to buy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile interceptors capable of shooting down, short-, medium- and long-range ballistic weapons, such as Iran's Shehab-3b and Sejjil-2 systems.
The officials said the contract, involving 96 interceptors rather than the 144 originally envisioned when the project was first mooted in 2008, is likely to be formally announced next week.
THAAD will form the core of a regional missile defense shield the Obama administration plans to deploy across the region.
The GCC's defense chiefs agreed years ago to develop an integrated early warning system but dynastic rivalries have prevented progress.
The emirates is the first foreign buyer of THAAD. Saudi Arabia is reported to be interested in the system as well.
Kuwait has signed a contract for upgrading its Raytheon Patriot missile defense systems, which are designed to counter low-level threats, to PAC-3 standard.
All told, tiny Kuwait is expected to spend $7 billion on U.S. weapons systems over the next few years.
The sultanate of Oman, which shares control of the Strait of Hormuz with Iran, is slated to spend $12 billion on 18 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D jets and installing new command-and-control centers.
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Saudi Arabia to purchase 84 F-15SA, upgrade current F-15 fleet
Air Force officials announced the next chapter in a partnership with the Royal Saudi Air Force as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently signed a $29.4 billion Foreign Military Sales Letter of Offer and Acceptance solidifying their plans to purchase 84 F-15SA fighter aircraft and upgrade their current fleet of 70 F-15S aircraft to the SA configuration.
"We are excited about this program and the increased capability it will bring to Saudi Arabia, a strategically important partner in the Middle East region," said Heidi Grant, the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs. "Building partner capacity is becoming even more important and the Royal Saudi Air Force is undertaking a vast effort to not only modernize their fighter fleet but to invest heavily in quality training."
As part of the agreement, Saudi airmen will be attending Air Force technical training courses at a number of Air Force installations, including Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and Keesler AFB, Miss. Saudi airmen will train alongside their U.S. Air Force counterparts, enriching training for both countries and enhancing an already strong relationship between the two countries.
The Air Force will also coordinate English language training for the students at Lackland AFB, Texas, officials added.
"Air Education and Training Command offers high-quality, advanced training to our international partners in a number of skill sets," said Brig. Gen. Tim Zadaliss, the AETC director of operations. "This agreement allows the U.S. Air Force the opportunity to assist the Royal Saudi Air Force in not only modernizing their equipment, but ensuring they will have a well trained force to maintain and operate it."
Officials said that under the agreement, students may begin arriving this year, and in 2012, the service expects to train more than 300 Saudi airmen in Air Force technical training courses.
The U.S. Air Force has been training members of the Royal Saudi Air Force on U.S. soil for more than 25 years, officials said. Since 2007, more than 1,000 Royal Saudi Air Force students have attended U.S. Air Force training programs, including pilot, navigator, logistics, maintenance and explosive ordnance disposal training, as well as professional military education courses.
The program, which includes the largest foreign military sales contract in U.S. history, is being led by Lt. Gen. Thomas Owen, Aeronautical Systems commander and will involve program management personnel at Robins AFB, Ga., Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and Langley AFB, Va., as well as many other Air Force and Navy organizations.
U.S. to Sell F-15 Fighters to Saudi Arabia
The United States will sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for 70 existing aircraft to Saudi Arabia under a nearly $29.4 billion agreement, U.S. officials announced today.
During a joint State Department and Defense Department briefing today, James N. Miller, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, and Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, discussed the sale.
“The United States is firmly committed to the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as we have been for nearly seven decades, and … more broadly, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong mutual interest in the security and stability of the Gulf,” Miller said.
The F-15s Saudi Arabia will receive “will have the latest generation of computing power, radar technology, infrared sensors and electronic warfare systems,” he added.
“This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” Shapiro said. “It demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security.”
State and DOD have worked to conclude the agreement since June 2010, Shapiro added.
The White House earlier today released a statement detailing the Foreign Military Sales program agreement, which also will provide munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics support for the F-15s to the Royal Saudi Air Force.
Source: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 30 December 2011 - Security Industry News (www.upi.com & www.defencetalk.com)
Photo: The Royal-Saudi Arabian Air Force F-15SA Fighter Jet (Photo by www.setyoufreenews.com)