The Trump administration has agreed to sell 3,000 precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest buyer of American weapons, for $290 million.
A notification by Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) today said the sale will include Boeing’s GBU-39 SDB I munitions and related equipment to the “friendly country” that promotes “stability” in the Middle East.
“The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing its stocks of long-range, precision air-to-ground munitions. The size and accuracy of the SDB I allows for an effective munition with less collateral damage,” the DSCA release said.
The possible bomb sale comes less than a week after foreign media reported that the U.S. was close to selling 7,500 precision-guided, air-to-ground munitions (including Paveway IV smart bombs) produced by Raytheon for nearly $480 million. Riyadh purchased 13,000 munitions including 8,000 older Paveway models in 2015. An unspecified number of “enhanced” Paveways besides mortar bombs, missiles and drones were sold to the Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. under an approximately $8.1 billion “emergency” deal last year. It had caused quite a storm with those opposing the contract fearing the use of U.S.-made munitions in Yemen Civil War, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The sale comes in the final days of U.S. President Donald Trump’s term. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia in a bid to pressure Riyadh to end its involvement in Yemen.
Total arms sales by the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and its Gulf allies amounted to over $20 billion in 2019.
Although the figure dropped this year, $3.5 billion went to Emirati purchases including MQ-9B combat drones.
Washington agreed to sell F-35 jets, MQ-9B drones and weapons to Abu Dhabi for staggering $23 billion in November, marking the single biggest arms deal to a Middle Eastern ally. The month also saw Boeing winning $9.8 billion to modernize Saudi F-15 combat aircraft.
Earlier, Raytheon received $2.3 billion for 7 THAAD radars of which two were for Saudi Arabia. Boeing won $1.9 billion to supply Stand-off Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles to the gulf country.