$350 Billion Arms Deal with US Makes Saudi Arabia the Islamic Military Superpower
The reasons for Saudi Arabia's unprecedented military build-up remain contentious, but the United States' recent signing of a multi-year $350 billion arms deal will make the kingdom the undisputed military superpower in the Middle East and able to cow -- and probably emasculate -- Iran.
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Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran are locked in a bitter and deadly sectarian feud expressed in raging proxy wars in Yemen and Syria.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps assert Saudi Arabia and ISIS were masterminds of the deadly June 7 attacks on the Iranian Parliament and the Imam Ayatollah Khomeini Shrine in Tehran that killed 14 Iranians, an accusation Saudi Arabia immediately denied.
Iranian apprehensions about Saudi expansionism were stoked when Saudi Arabia and the United States last month signed the largest weapon's deal in history -- a mammoth $350 billion agreement over the next decade that will allow Saudi Arabia to strengthen its leadership of the Muslim world in the face of rising Iranian power and ongoing regional conflicts.
The sale of most of the items in $350 billion weapons deal was approved during the term of former U.S. president Barack Obama. Obama, however, withheld formal approval of the deal after reports the Royal Saudi Arabian Armed Forces used banned cluster bombs against Houthi rebels and their civilian supporters fighting against a Saudi-led coalition in the ongoing Yemeni Civil War.
The U.S. has released a list of the military hardware Saudi Arabia intends to purchase, and among the most notable in this list are:
* $13.5 billion for seven THAAD batteries with an estimated delivery time of 2023-2026.
* $4.46 billion for 104,000 air-to-ground munitions. These smart bombs include the GBU 31v3, GBU-10, GBU-12, GBU-31v1, GBU-38.
* $6.65 billion for enhancements to the kingdom's Patriot anti-missile system.
* $2 billion for "light close air support" aircraft.
* $2 billion for four new aircraft for "TASS & Strategic ISC." TASS stands for "Tactical Airborne Surveillance System," similar in concept to the U.S. Air Force JSTARS system.
* $5.8 billion for three KC-130J and 20 C-130J new aerial tanker aircraft, along with sustainment through 2026.
* $6.25 billion for an eight-year sustainment deal for Saudi Arabia's fleet of F-15 fighters, with another $20 million for an F-15 C/D recapitalization program study.
* $2 billion for an unknown number of MK-VI Patrol Boats.
* $6 billion for four Lockheed Martin-built naval frigates with planned delivery in the 2025-2028 timeframe.
* $2.35 billion to modify 400 existing Bradley fighting vehicles, along with another $1.35 billion for 213 new vehicles.
* $1.5 billion for 180 Howitzers with an estimated delivery time of 2019-2022.
* $18 billion for C4I System and integration.
* $800 million for two Remote Sensing Satellites.
* $4 billion for two satellite communications and Space Based Early Warning Systems.