The United States and Saudi Arabia are about to finalize the biggest arms deal in US history, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The paper said that the Obama administration would soon notify Congress of plans to offer advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia, is a deal said to be worth up to $60 billion. The administration is also in talks with the kingdom about potential naval and missile-defense upgrades that could be worth tens of billions of dollars more.
The multi-billion arms deal is said to include as many as 84 new F-15 fighters, an upgrade of 70 more, and purchase three types of helicopters—70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 "Little Bird" defenders.
On top of the $60 billion package of fighter jets and helicopters, US officials are reportedly discussing a potential $30 billion package to upgrade Saudi Arabia's naval forces; as well as to expand its ballistic-missile defenses.
The arms negotiations between the US and Saudi Arabia have been widely known for months, as the US seeks to build up missile defense across the region, and the Saudi package could be similar to one in the United Arab Emirates.
Pro-Israel lawmakers have voiced concerns over such arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying they might "undercut Israel's military edge and provide support to a government with a poor human rights record.|
US officials, however, said the Israelis are increasingly comfortable with the Saudi sale because the planes won't have certain long-range weapons systems.
Israel itself, they added, is in line to buy a more advanced fighter, the F-35, and should begin to receive them around the same time the Saudis are expected to start getting the F-15s.
"We appreciate the administration's efforts to maintain Israel's qualitative military edge, and we expect to continue to discuss our concerns with the administration about the issues," said Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the US.
The administration plans to tout the $60 billion package as a major job creator—supporting at least 75,000 jobs.
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