The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are finalizing an arms package that shadows even the large arms mega-sales in the region. The packages worth about $60 Billion include mostly platforms produced by Boeing, including 84 F-15 fighter jets, replacing the Kingdom’s aging F-15C/D fighters, upgrading of existing F-15S strike fighters in service with the RSAF, supply of 70 new AH-64D attack helicopters and upgrading of existing Apaches, and delivery of 36 AH-6 Little Bird. The package also includes 70 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk assault helicopters. the deal will also include various types of air/air, and air/surface precision guided weaponry. It is assumed that the quoted price ($60 billion) reflects the full life cycle cost over 10 years.
Other elements on the shopping list being discussed between Riyadh and Washington focus on missile defense, integrating both land-based and, potentially, ship borne elements – once the Saudis commit to an adequate platform. Such systems commonly include variants of the SM-3 or THAAD interceptors, and early warning and fire control systems including the TPY-2 radar or TPY-1 AEGIS BMD naval systems. Unlike other countries in the region, the Saudis preferred to invest in modernizing their airpower but delayed the upgrade of their Patriot air defense systems, which could provide limited ballistic missile defense capability.
In recent years Saudi Arabia has bought military hardware from Russia (main battle tanks, helicopters) the U.K., (Typhoon strike fighters). The kingdom is yet to improve its air defense systems (probably, an element in the new package) and naval capabilities. As other Gulf States, Saudi Arabia is bolstering its military power against the growing from Iran. Most of the investments made by the rich Gulf countries were in missile defense and airpower, trusting the U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf to deal with the Iranian naval forces. On the other side of the Gulf, Iran is constantly expanding its naval capabilities and ballistic missile reach, seeking strategic domination of the region, by conventional and unconventional means.