Pentagon plans $60B weapons sale to Saudis

Oct. 21, 2010 at 8:48 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Department has submitted a proposal to Congress to sell $60 billion worth of advanced aircraft and weapons, officials said.

If the proposal is approved and the sale consummated, it would be the biggest arms deal to another country in U.S. history, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Congress has 30 days to review the sale before the Pentagon and weapons makers enter into more detailed contract discussions with Saudi Arabia. Congress is expected to review the deal when it is back in session after the November midterm elections.

The package includes 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to 70 F-15s already in the Saudis' possession, as well as 70 Apache, 72 Black Hawk and 36 Little Bird helicopters, the Post said. Saudi Arabia would also buy versions of a satellite-guided "smart bomb" system, as well as anti-ship and anti-radar missiles.

The sale would be completed over five to 10 years, depending on production schedules and training needs, officials said.

"There's an enormous amount at stake in terms of U.S. foreign policy, credibility in the region, and the health of the aerospace industry," Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace industry analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va., told the Post. "When you sell combat aircraft you're also selling a strategic relationship."

Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political military affairs, said the Obama administration determined the deal "would not negatively impact Israel's security interests or Israel's qualitative military edge."

But one lawmaker expressed skepticism to the Post.

"It seems to be rewarding a country that hasn't been particularly helpful to any of our foreign policy objectives and one that doesn't seem to be well-suited to be a military bulwark against Iran," said Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. "This is too important of a deal to be dropping in the middle of an election recess," he said. "The inescapable conclusion based on the timing is that they did not want Congress to take a hard look at this deal."

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