U.S. plans Patriot missile sale to Saudi Arabia

American soldiers wait beside a US Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep, on Feb. 5, 2013.

American soldiers wait beside a US Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep, on Feb. 5, 2013.

The United States plans to sell Patriot missile batteries to Saudi Arabia worth $1.75 billion and long-range artillery to the United Arab Emirates valued at about $900 million, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

The Defense Department informed Congress of the potential arms sales this week as fighter jets from both of the Gulf states took part in a U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

The Saudi government had requested the purchase of 202 Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 missiles — the most sophisticated version of the Patriot anti-missile weapons — as well as a flight test target, telemetry kits and other related equipment, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

“The proposed sale will help replenish Saudi’s current Patriot missiles which are becoming obsolete and difficult to sustain due to age and the limited availability of repair parts,” the agency said.

“The program will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” it added.

Both Kuwait and Qatar already have purchased the PAC-3 weapons, which are designed to knock out incoming ballistic missiles as well as enemy aircraft and cruise missiles using ground radar.

Gulf countries in recent years have invested heavily in missile defense weapons, radar as well as air power, mainly as a hedge against Iran which they view as a regional threat.

The Patriot missiles, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, have an estimated range of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) and have more advanced radar than the older systems.

Separately, the Defense Department notified lawmakers about a planned sale of 12 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) Launchers to the United Arab Emirates for nearly one billion dollars.

The system “will improve the UAE’s capability to meet current and future threats and provide greater security for its critical infrastructure,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said. The weapons, which deliver precise and powerful artillery fire at a long range, would also bolster the UAE military’s ability to operate with U.S. forces, it said.

Congress has 30 days to raise objections to the potential arms sales. Without any move to block the deals, the U.S. government can then negotiate contracts with the two countries.

 
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