US Confirms $60bn Saudi Arms Deal

"(ENGLISH.ALJAZEERA)
The United States plans to sell up to $60bn worth of military aircraft to Saudi Arabia, the US state department has announced, the largest US arms sale ever. Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told a news conference on Wednesday that the US administration did not anticipate any objections to the sale from Israel, traditionally wary of arms sales to nearby Arab countries.

The sale, which had been expected, includes 84 Boeing F-15 fighter jets and 70 upgrades of existing Saudi F-15s.

It also includes 70 of Boeing's Apache attack helicopters and 36 AH-6M Little Birds, lightweight helicopters often used in special operations.

Under the deal, Saudi Arabia also has the option to buy 72 Black Hawk helicopters built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

Shapiro said the total value of the package would not exceed $60bn, although he emphasised that Saudi Arabia may not choose to exercise all of its purchase options during the programme, which will last from 15 to 20 years.

Alexander Vershbow, the assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs, said the US had discussed the matter with Israel, and concluded that it would not undercut Israel's qualitative military edge in the region.

""We have consulted with Israel as this sale has taken shape [...] based on what we've heard at high levels, Israel does not object to this sale,"" he said.

'Dangerous neighbourhood' Vershbow and Shapiro both stressed that bolstering Saudi Arabia's own defence capabilities would improve US security in a vital part of the world where fears are growing over Iran's nuclear programme.

""This is not solely about Iran,"" Shapiro said. ""It's about helping the Saudis with their legitimate security needs [...] they live in a dangerous neighbourhood and we are helping them preserve and protect their security.
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/10/20101020173353178622.html