Last Updated: Thu Oct 28, 2010 18:09 pm (KSA) 15:09 pm (GMT)

US announces $60 bln arms sale for Saudi Arabia

The sale includes 84 F-15's and 70 Apache attack helicopters  
The sale includes 84 F-15's and 70 Apache attack helicopters

In its biggest arms deal ever, the United States announced Wednesday it will sell up to $60 billion worth of warplanes, helicopters and other weapons to Saudi Arabia, partly to help it counter 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.

 It will send a strong message to countries in the region that we are committed to support the security of our key partners  
Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs

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.

It will also include 72 Black Hawk helicopters built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

If the massive deal goes through, it would be the largest U.S. arms sale ever.

Shapiro said the total value of the package would not exceed $60 billion, although he emphasized that Saudi Arabia may not choose to exercise all of its purchase options during the program, which will last from 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," Shapiro said.

Though he said the deal is "not solely about Iran," Shapiro admitted it is partly intended to help Saudi Arabia counter the perceived threat from the non-Arab Islamic republic across the Gulf.

A senior defense official told reporters last month that "if you look at the kingdom, the major threat that they face in the region emanates from Iran."

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the arms package "gives them a whole host of defensive capabilities to defend the kingdom and deterrence capabilities."

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