As part of the mammoth $110-billion deal brokered by Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia is purchasing precision arms worth $7 billion from US manufacturers Raytheon and Boeing, a media report says. This is in spite of concerns over the toll on Yemen’s civilians.
Raytheon and Boeing are the two defense contractors selected to produce precision-guided munitions for the Saudi Arabian military, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing sources familiar with the matter. The deal is part of the giant $110-billion weapons agreement inked by Trump and the Saudi king Salman bin Abdulaziz in May.
Neither the corporations nor Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, chose to comment on the precision weapons sale. The Saudi diplomat said, however, that his country will follow the agreement signed by Trump and King Salman.
Under the terms of the deal, Saudi Arabia will take delivery of US-made tanks, artillery, helicopters and light close air support as well as intelligence-gathering aircraft, and anti-missile systems such as Patriot and THAAD. The Trump administration has aggressively pushed for the arms deal, citing the revenue it would generate for the US economy as well as the numerous jobs it would create in the defense industry.
Arms sales to Saudi Arabia have caused widespread controversy internationally. Since 2015, the Sunni monarchy has been waging a war against Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, which pushed one of the Arab world’s poorest countries to the brink of famine and left some 4,800 Yemenis killed. Most of the civilian casualties were caused by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, though Riyadh consistently denied the reports.
Rights groups say coalition airstrikes have deliberately targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure on multiple occasions, indicating that the problem lies in the Saudi-led-coalition’s rules of engagement rather than non-possession of better and more precise arms.
The specifics of the precision weapons deal have not been disclosed, but it is known that Raytheon has long been producing the Paveway IV laser-guided bombs, marketed as munitions meant to revolutionize “tactical air-to-ground warfare by converting ‘dumb’ bombs into precision guided munitions.” Another Raytheon product, the Excalibur precision artillery shell, is in use with the US, Swedish, Canadian, Australian and Dutch militaries.
Boeing, one of the world’s leading aircraft builders, is also known as the manufacturer of “smart” bombs called Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). It also produces so-called JDAM kits used to convert general purpose bombs into laser- or GPS-guided weapons.
The US State Department has yet to formally notify Congress of the precision guided munitions deal. Washington has promised to take into account “regional balance and human rights as well as the impact on the US defense industrial base,” according to an unnamed State Department official.