US approves $11.25 billion warship sale to Saudi Arabia

US approves $11.25 billion warship sale to Saudi Arabia
Washington has approved the sale of up to four advanced warships to Saudi Arabia, in a deal valued at $11.25 billion overall.
2 min read
21 October, 2015
The sale comes amid a renewed arms race in the Middle East [Getty]
The US government has approved an $11.25 billion deal to sell Saudi Arabia four multi-mission warships, officials said on Tuesday, amid mounting regional tension.

Saudi Arabia is modernizing its eastern fleet, which faces off against Iranian forces across the oil-rich Gulf.

The four ships, based on the US Navy's littoral combat ship, are relatively small but designed to be fast and manoeuvrable in shallow water and to pack a punch.

The statement from the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said it had notified the US Congress of the State Department's decision and was awaiting final approval.

The agency said the sale would "improve the security of a strategic regional partner, which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East."

Dubbed a "multi-mission surface combatant ship" in its export version, the ships carry dozens of Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Its main gun is the 76mm OTO Melara, built in Italy, but the main contract for the vessels will go to US arms giant Lockheed Martin.

The sale, if approved as expected, comes amid a renewed arms race in the Middle East.

Russia has stepped up military support for Syria, a bitter foe of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi ally Egypt has agreed to buy two helicopter carrier vessels from France. 

World military spending, while falling for the third year in a row, has levelled off as reductions in the United States and Western Europe were largely matched by increases in Asia and Oceania, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, reported SIPRI  an independent arms control and disarmament think-tank. 

US military spending fell by 6.5 per cent as part of ongoing budget deficit reduction measures; spending has now fallen by 20 per cent since its peak in 2010. However, current US military spending is still 45 per cent higher than in 2001, just before the 11 September terrorist attacks on the USA.

The next three highest spenders—China, Russia and Saudi Arabia—have all substantially
increased their military expenditures, with Saudi Arabia’s increase of 17 per cent making it the largest increase of any of the top 15 spenders worldwide.

‘While total world military spending is mostly unchanged, some regions, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, are continuing to see rapid build-ups that are placing an increasingly high burden on many economies’, said Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, Head of SIPRI’s Military Expenditure project. ‘These increases partly reflect worsening security situations, but in many cases they are also the product of corruption, vested interests and autocratic governance.’