WASHINGTON – In the largest U.S. arms deal ever, the administration of President Barack Obama is ready to notify Congress of plans to offer advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The newspaper said the administration was also in talks with the kingdom about potential naval and missile-defense upgrades that could be worth tens of billions of dollars more.
The administration sees the sale as part of a broader policy aimed at shoring up Arab allies against Iran, the report said.
The $60 billion in fighter jets and helicopters is the top-line amount requested by the Saudis, even though the kingdom is likely to commit initially to buying only about half that amount, the paper said.
In its notification to Congress, expected to be submitted this week or next, the administration will authorize the Saudis to buy as many as 84 new F-15 fighters, upgrade 70 more, and purchase three types of helicopters — 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks, and 36 Little Birds, the Journal noted, citing unnamed officials.
The notification will set off a congressional review. Lawmakers could push for changes, try to impose conditions or block the deal altogether, though that is not expected, the paper said.
Earlier media reports said that to assuage Israel's concerns, the Obama administration has decided not to offer Saudi Arabia so-called standoff systems, which are advanced long-range weapons that can be attached to F-15s for use in offensive operations against land- and sea-based targets.
© AFP 2013