IN ITS biggest arms deal ever, the US will sell up to $US60 billion worth of warplanes, helicopters and other weapons to Saudi Arabia, partly to help it counter Iran.
The plan allows for the sale of 84 F-15 fighter jets, 70 Apache attack helicopters, 72 tactical Black Hawk helicopters and 36 light helicopters, assistant secretary for political-military affairs Andrew Shapiro said.
The sale, which also includes the upgrade of 70 used F-15s, is “not to exceed $US60 billion”, Mr Shapiro told reporters as President Barack Obama’s administration notified Congress of its plans to make the deal.
Congress has the authority to amend or delay the agreement, according to Mr Shapiro, who added he also did not expect Israeli opposition to the sale.
The delivery of the weapons to oil-rich Saudi Arabia would be spread over 15 to 20 years.
“It will send a strong message to countries in the region that we are committed to support the security of our key partners and allies in the Arabian Gulf and broader Middle East,” Mr Shapiro said.
Though Mr Shapiro said the deal is “not solely about Iran,” he admitted it is partly intended to help Saudi Arabia counter the perceived threat from the non-Arab Islamic republic across the Gulf.
US defence officials said the deal had been in the works for months with the Saudis, who have grown increasingly anxious about Iran’s missile arsenal.