Saudi Arms Deal May Include THAAD, Coastal Patrol Ships

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from a THAAD battery located on Wake Island during Flight Test Operational (FTO)-02 Event 2a, conducted Nov. 1, 2015. (Defense Department photo/Ben Listerman)

It’s not exactly set in stone, but the $110 billion Saudi arms deal President Donald Trump came home with last week could include the THAAD missile defense system and new coastal patrol ships for the Kingdom.

Both the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, which the U.S. is now setting up in South Korea, and the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant are developed by Lockheed Martin Corp.

Trump said that as part of the agreement, “We will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.”

According to a fact sheet from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, an arm of the Department of Defense that oversees Foreign Military Sales approved by the State Department, the $110 billion deal will promote “a significant expansion of the more than seven-decade long security relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

“The package demonstrates the United States’ commitment to our partnership with Saudi Arabia, while expanding opportunities for American companies in the region, potentially supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States,” it stated.

The agency said the State Department had given approval for a “possible” Foreign Military Sale of the Lockheed Martin Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC), now in development, “and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $11.25 billion.”

The vessel was described as a derivative of the Freedom monohull variant of the Navy‘s Littoral Combat Ship.

According to Lockheed, the combatant will be a “lethal and highly maneuverable multi-mission surface combatant capable of littoral and open ocean operation. It was designed from the keel up to confront modern maritime and economic security threats.”

The Multi-Mission Surface Combatant would have a range of 5,000 nautical miles and could reach speeds in excess of 30 knots. “It will be based on the Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship’s 118-meter (387 feet) hull and it will utilize the same combined diesel and gas propulsion system,” Lockheed said.

It would have a 57mm Mk110 deck gun, among other defense systems.

As for THAAD, the agency said there is a memorandum of intent with the Saudis that could also include sale of the anti-missile defense system.

The deal also included precision-guided bombs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMS). The administration of President Barack Obama had held up the sale of JDAMS for fear that it would increase the likelihood of civilian casualties in the conflict between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The $110 billion package also included 150 Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters. Lockheed is the parent company of Sikorsky. In addition, the Saudis would be buying advanced Boeing P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft.

In assessing the deal, Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey, director of DCSA, said the sales would “contribute to a regional security architecture that advances defense cooperation for both the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

In a statement, Rixey said, “Additionally, it provides our partners with full-spectrum capabilities and the use of other security cooperation programs, such as defense institution building programs that address not only the material and related training, but also education and advising on strategy-planning doctrine and institutional support.

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