Countering Iran? U.S. Selling More Weapons to Saudi Arabia


US Army Humvee during training

US Army Humvee during training (Image Copyright AM General)

The Saudi government has requested a possible sale of howitzers, army vehicles, radars and other hardware, plus logistical support and training from the U.S. The deal could be worth US$886 million.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified the U.S. Congress last week, that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wants to buy

  • 36 M777A2 155mm Towed Howitzers
  • 54 M119A2 105mm Towed Howitzers
  • 6 AN/TPQ-36(V) Fire Finder Radar Systems
  • 24 Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems (AFATDS)
  • 17,136 rounds M107 155mm High Explosive (HE) ammunition
  • 2,304 rounds M549 155mm Rocket Assisted Projectiles (RAPs)
  • 60 M1165A1 High Mobility Multipurpose Vehicles (HMMWVs)
  • 120 M1151A1 HMMWVs
  • 252 M1152A1 HMMWVs
  • Export Single Channel Ground And Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS)
  • electronic support systems
  • 105mm ammunition
  • various wheeled/tracked support vehicles
  • spare and repair parts
  • technical manuals and publications
  • translation services
  • training
  • USG and contractor technical assistance
  • other related elements of logistical and program support
M777 155mm Ultralight Towed Howitzer

M777 155mm Ultralight Towed Howitzer (Image Copyright BAE Systems)

It is unclear if the procurement of the artillery systems is meant as a replacement of older ones or to increase the numbers of artillery pieces in the existing artillery battalions. Especially the M777A2 Ultralight Towed Howitzer however, is a massive boost for the Saudi Arabian army artillery since it allows the firing of the Excalibur precision guided extended range projectiles. The Excalibur is a family of fire-and-forget munitions intended to reduce the task load on gun crews and at the same time improve the range and precision of 155mm howitzer fire.

Existing artillery in Saudi Arabia mainly consists of older towed or self-propelled systems of French or US origin, with some new European and Chinese pieces.

The M777 is a British-U.S. co-production, currently used by the US Army and US Marine Corps, where it replaced the M198, and the Canadian and Australian armed forces.

The latest available data show that Saudi Arabia has the second-highest military spending in terms of GDP in the world with 10% of its gross domestic product being invested in defense procurement. Only Oman spends more with 11.4% of its GDP. In comparison, China uses 4.3% and the U.S. 4.06% of its GDP for defense.

A week ago, Bahrain has applied for the sale of arms from the U.S., as did the Emirate of Qatar on 22 Sept (anti-tank missiles, helicopters and communications equipment). Not surprisingly, the countries on the western shore of the Persian Gulf react with an arms shopping spree to the growing aggressiveness and the perceived threat posed by Iran.

(Sources: DSCA, BAE Systems, CIA; 23 Sept 2011)

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About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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One Response to Countering Iran? U.S. Selling More Weapons to Saudi Arabia

  1. With the US having lost its appetite for war for the next 10 years at least, it’s likely to just arm its regional allies and let them handle the brunt of any future conflicts. Expect to see many more large arms deals.

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