The Arab states embarked on one of the largest rearmament exercises in peacetime history,
ordering US weapons worth some $123 billion, providing a large boost to the US military industrail complex.
A package of U.S. arms worth more than $67 billon for Saudi Arabia accounts for the largest single component of this military buildup, The Financial Times reported.
The first phase of this agreement -- soon to go before the U.S. Congress for approval -- is estimated at about $30 billion.
Anthony Cordesman, from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that the U.S. was aiming to achieve a “new post-Iraq war security structure that can secure the flow of energy exports to the global economy”.
The arms sales would “reinforce the level of regional deterrence and help reduce the size of forces the U.S. must deploy in the region”.
The purchase of new weaponry comes at a time when the United States’ defense industry bore the brunt of global economic crisis.
More than eight million U.S. jobs were lost in the slump that was triggered by dodgy Wall Street mortgage investments. The economists warned of a double-dip recession in the United States.
Saudi Arabia will receive 85 new F-15 jet fighters and another 70 will be upgraded. Boeing will be the principal supplier, allowing the U.S. company to strengthen its ability to manufacture advanced military jets, an area where it has been slipping under competitive pressure. A successor agreement is expected to provide for the upgrade of radar and missile defense systems and an ambitious modernization of the Saudi Navy’s eastern fleet, Financial Times’ report by Roula Khalaf in London and James Drummond in Abu Dhabi said.
“The Saudi aim is to send a message especially to the Iranians -- that we have complete aerial superiority over them,” said a Saudi defense analyst.
Other U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf are also involved. Theodore Karasik, from the Institute for Near East and (Persian) Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said that the United Arab Emirates had signed contracts to buy military equipment worth $35 billion-$40 billion.
The UAE has received clearance to buy Thaad, a high altitude missile defense system being developed by Lockheed Martin. The UAE and Kuwait have each signed contracts for upgrades to their Patriot missile defense systems, developed by Raytheon, which cover lower levels of an air defense “curtain”.
Elsewhere, Oman is expected to spend $12 billion and Kuwait $7 billion in the period until the end of 2014 on replacing and upgrading warplanes and new command and control systems, according to Blenheim Capital Partners, a consultancy that arranges offset deals. Oman’s package will include 18 new F-16 jet fighters and upgrades for another 12. This will benefit Lockheed Martin, reinforcing its position as the leading U.S. manufacturer of warplanes.
The total value of all U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman and Kuwait is estimated at $122.88 billion over the next four years.
Grant Rogan, Blenheim’s chief executive, said that Middle Eastern and south-east Asian countries had traditionally bought arms on a one-off basis. But now they were replacing western Europeans as some of the biggest regular arms purchasers. “They are the big buyers,” he said.