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U.S. to announce $10 billion arms sale in Middle East


Bloomberg: The Obama administration is to announce a $10 billion arms package to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that will be the centerpiece of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit the countries next week, according to a U.S. official. Bloomberg

By Gopal Ratnam

The Obama administration is to announce a $10 billion arms package to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that will be the centerpiece of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit the countries next week, according to a U.S. official.

The arms sold to Israel will include an unspecified number of V-22 Osprey tiltrotor transport aircraft, precision strike missiles, air defense radar and KC-35 refueling tankers; the UAE is likely to buy 26 F-16 jet fighters, and the Persian Gulf nation as well as Saudi Arabia will each buy precision missiles, said the official who provided the details on the condition of anonymity ahead of the deal’s announcement.

If the transaction goes through it will be the first foreign sale of the V-22 tiltrotor made by Boeing Co. (BA) and Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter unit. The UAE already ordered 80 F-16s made by Lockheed Martin Corp. in the late 1990s, and Saudi Arabia operates a fleet of Boeing-made F-15 jets. Details of the make and model of the precision strike missile and air defense radar weren’t immediately available.

The announcement of an arms package to allies in the Middle East comes as Hagel readies his first trip to the region since taking his Cabinet post in February. The weapons sales will be a centerpiece of the visit, the U.S. official said.
Iran, Syria

At a broader level Hagel’s visit to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE is likely to be focused on the threats to the region from Iran and Syria, said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

In Israel, Hagel “has to make clear on the psychological and emotional side that he gets it that they’re in a very dangerous and uncertain neighborhood,” Miller said in a telephone interview before details of the arms sales surfaced.

To that end the announcement of additional arms deal with Israel is likely to be a highlight of Hagel’s meetings with his counterpart Moshe Yaalon, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The deal also underscores President Barack Obama’s comments last month in Israel that the Jewish state must have the capacity to defend itself against potential threats from Iran, which is suspected of developing nuclear weapons, and from Syria, which has chemical weapons.

The Obama administration also has funded Israel’s Iron Dome system, designed to shoot down short-range rockets. In its 2014 budget request the Pentagon sought $220 million to buy additional batteries of the missile defense system for Israel. If approved by Congress, that spending will be on top of the $486 million the U.S. has added for the system in recent years.
Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been a long-time buyer of U.S. armaments and operates a significant American-made arsenal.

In 2010, in one of the largest arms-sales to date, the U.S. announced a deal with Saudi Arabia valued at $30 billion that included 84 Boeing-made F-15 jets and 72 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters built by United Technologies Corp.

Last year, the U.S. proposed selling to Saudi Arabia a fleet of 20 C-130J military transport planes, five KC-130J refueling aircraft and related equipment from Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) valued at about $6.7 billion.

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