US Plans $4.6 Billion in Mideast Arms Sales
By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Bush administration spelled out plans on Friday to sell $4.6 billion of arms to moderate Arab states, including battle tanks worth as much as $2.9 billion to protect critical Saudi infrastructure.
The announcement came two weeks after the administration said it would sell Israel its latest supply of JP-8 aviation fuel valued at up to $210 million to help Israeli warplanes “keep peace and security in the region.”
The United States also rushed a delivery of precision-guided bombs requested by Israel after launching its airstrikes against Hizbollah fighters in Lebanon 17 days ago, The New York Times reported last week.
In the newly proposed sales to Arab states, UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter gunships worth up to $808 million would go to the United Arab Emirates, while AH-64 Apache helicopters worth as much as $400 million would go to Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain would also get Black Hawk helicopters, valued at up to $252 million. Jordan would get a potential $156 million in upgrades to 1,000 of its M113A1 armored personnel carriers.
Javelin anti-tank missiles valued at up to $48 million would go to Oman under the deals put forward by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which administers U.S. government-to-government arms sales.
The $2.9 billion Saudi deal involves the sale of 58 older-generation U.S. M1A1 Abrams tanks that would be modernized. Also, 315 Saudi-owned, newer-model, Abrams tanks would be improved with such things as air-conditioning and infrared sights for the commanders as well as the gunners.
The project’s prime contractor would be General Dynamics Corp.’s Land Systems business unit of Sterling Heights, Michigan, the Pentagon said in a notice to Congress required by law.
Vehicle “teardown” and final reassembly would be carried out in Saudi Arabia, the notice said. The upgraded configuration is known as the M1A2S, in which the S stands for Saudi.
“The proposed sale and upgrade will allow Saudi Arabia to operate and exercise a more lethal and survivable M1A2S tank for the protection of critical infrastructure,” it said.
It also would keep a substantial number of tanks in the region that have “a high degree of commonality” with the U.S. tank fleet, the Pentagon said, referring to interchangeable parts.
Notices of proposed U.S. arms sales are required by law once they top certain value thresholds. They do not mean a sale has been concluded. Congress may block a sale if both houses pass resolutions of disapproval within 30 calendar days of formal notification.