Monday, August 9, 2010

U.S. Plans to Sell 84 F-15 Fighter Jets to Saudi Arabia

The Obama administration plans to sell advanced F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia but won't equip them with long-range weapons systems and other arms whose inclusion was strongly opposed by Israel, diplomats and officials said.The proposed $30 billion, 10-year arms package, which would be one of the biggest single deals of its kind, has been a source of behind-the-scenes tension during months of negotiations. Israeli officials have repeatedly conveyed their concerns in private that the U.S. risks undermining its military advantage by equipping regional rivals with top-flight technologies.Under the proposed sale, the 84 Boeing Co. F-15s for Saudi Arabia will have onboard targeting systems similar to those offered to other foreign governments, officials say.

More critically for Israel, an official in the region said, was the Obama administration's decision to not offer Saudi Arabia certain weapons components. Top among them: 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.U.S. officials say the F-15s in the package will be "very capable" aircraft, comparable to the F-15s flown by South Korea and Singapore, which are among Asia's most advanced militaries, said a senior U.S. defense official.

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