BEIJING, May 22, (ChinaMil) -- U.S. President Donald Trump sealed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia on Saturday. The arms deal, the largest one signed in the history of the US and Saudi Arabia, could total up to $350 billion over the next 10 years. So what are the equipment that the US could sell to Saudi Arabia? What is the prospect of the future arms sales between the two countries?
$100 billion of 'protection fee'
According to Reuters on May 21, the total value of US weapons and military services to Saudi Arabia will reach $110 billion.
A statement issued by the White House said that the package of defense equipment and services support the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian threats, claiming that the deal is a major extension of the security relationship between the two countries over 70 years.
Reuters quoted a number of sources who chose not to be named that the list of weapons and equipment to be sold including Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems, infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled artilleries, precision guided munitions, software for combat command and communications, four multi-purpose warships and the corresponding after-sales service and spare parts. These warships will be based on models of new coastal combat ships of the US.
US Department of State said that the United States will supply Saudi Arabia with Patriot and THAAD missile defense systems, according to Russia's Sputnik News.
According to the statement, Saudi Arabia will receive Patriot and THAAD systems to protect itself and the region "from missile or other airborne attacks".
In addition, the Sputnik News briefed that the arms deal package also includes aerostats, tanks, artilleries, counter-mortar radars, armored infantry vehicles, helicopters, ships, patrol boats and other weapons systems. The US will also provide transportation and intelligence aircraft, light attack aircraft and guidance system to help Saudi Arabia Air Force to upgrade.
According to the current offer, THAAD is at least $1.8 billion. One of a deal is a $6 billion deal that foresees the final assembly in Saudi Arabia of 150 S-70 Black Hawk utility helicopters manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
The deal will be what the Washington Post said a “cornerstone” of the proposal encouraging the Gulf states to form its own alliance like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance, dubbed “Arab NATO."
According to the Independent of UK, an unnamed White House official said the president will propose it as a template for an alliance that will fight terrorism and keep Iran in check. More American involvement, a more entrenched NATO-like military structure, and increased professional capability to match NATO forces may come about in the new Arab NATO alliance in part due to the motivation of Saudi Arabia.
If Arab NATO succeeds, the White House official said the US could shift the responsibility for security to those in the region and create jobs at home through the arms sales.
An unnamed Chinese military expert said on May 21 that the arms deal is targeting Iran. The THAAD and "Patriot" air defense and anti-missile systems can be said to be specifically purchased for Iran's ballistic missiles. There is no need to purchase so expensive weapons for anti-terrorism purpose.
In addition, weapons sold to Saudi Arabia by the US are more for defensive purposes. Saudi Arabia is currently equipped with F-15 series fighters and Typhoon fighter jets. These jets once had an absolute advantage over the Iranian air force.
However, after Iran deployed Russian-made S-300 air defense system, Saudi Arabia lost its advantage. Therefore, Saudi Arabia actually has both the demand and sufficient funds to purchase F-35. But at least the US has yet decided to sell F-35 to Saudi Arabia.
This shows that the US still holds back a trick or two. The US intends to maintain its technical level of arms sales to Saudi Arabia under that of Israel because Israel is now equipped with F-35 fighter jets.
$350 billion might be a castle in the air
According to US media reports, in addition to immediate effect of the $110 billion arms sales agreement, the two countries will reach a $350 billion arms sales agreement in the next ten years.
However, Chinese experts said that this may only be a showcase of attitude by Saudi Arabia.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabia’s military expenditure reached $63.7 billion in 2016. Due to Saudi Arabia's high military personnel maintaining fee, the purchase spending is less than one third of the total military spending. The $20 billion worth of purchase spending is too far away from the $35 billion average spending if the total $350 contract is carried out in ten years.
In fact, the military of Saudi Arabia in 2016 accounted for nearly 10 percent of its GDP. This is the highest in the world's top ten countries in terms of military spending in 2016. For a country without war, this is a very high proportion and it cannot be increased anymore.
According to the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT), Saudi Arabia’s imported arms totaled $32.272 billion from 2012 to 2015. This is already a great amount. Based on this ratio, it takes 40 years to complete the $350 billion deal.
In addition, Saudi Arabia's weapons and equipment are all imported. In order to try not to be controlled, Saudi Arabia will certainly purchase European equipment. Among the current five permanent members of the UN, Saudi Arabia has arms of all counties except for Russia.
Therefore, according to the existing military spending level, Saudi Arabia’s weapons procurement is close to saturation. The $350 billion agreement of intent might be just a castle in the air.
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