US to sell Saudis up to $60B worth of military aircraft

The United States plans to sell up to $60 billion worth of military aircraft to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. State Department announced yesterday in a move designed to shore up a region overshadowed by Iran.

Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told a news conference the U.S. administration did not anticipate any objections to the sale from Israel, traditionally wary of arms sales to nearby Arab countries.

“We think it will enhance regional security and stability rather than diminish it,” Shapiro said.

The sale, which had been expected, includes 84 new Boeing F-15 aircraft and 70 upgrades of existing Saudi F-15s. It also includes 70 of Boeing’s Apache attack helicopters and 36 of its AH-6M Little Birds. In addition, the deal will include 72 Black Hawk helicopters.

Shapiro said the total value of the package would not exceed $60 billion, although he emphasized that Saudi Arabia may choose not to exercise all of its purchase options during the program, which will last from 15 to 20 years. U.S. officials are also discussing a possible deal to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s navy.

U.S. concern about Iran’s growing military capability includes advances in a nuclear program the West believes is aimed at developing atomic weapons.



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