U.S. to expand Saudi offensive strike capacity with the largest arms sale package ever approved by the U.S. government

Posted by Robert Haddick on October 21, 2010 5:42 PM | Permalink| Print |

The Obama administration has presented to Congress a $60 billion arms sale package for Saudi Arabia’s armed forces. The package, the largest ever approved by the U.S. government, will among other features, greatly expand the offensive strike capacity of the Saudi Arabian air force. The Saudi air force will acquire up to 84 new F-15 fighters and upgrade the capabilities of 70 existing Saudi F-15s. The Saudi air force will also get up to 3,000 guided one-ton bombs, including 1,000 GPS-guided JDAMs. Offensive strike capacity is further boosted with the inclusion of 600 HARM anti-radar missiles, 400 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and 70 Apache Longbow attack helicopters. Congress is not expected to block these sales.

In a recent essay, I discussed why a containment and deterrence strategy is the path of least resistance in response to Iran’s future nuclear weapons capability. I also explained why executing such a policy won’t be easy.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has hoped that Iran’s leaders would figure out that their nuclear program is reducing, not increasing, Iran’s security. The U.S. government’s massive sale of offensive armament to Saudi Arabia is designed to be as clear a signal to Tehran as is possible.

No one should expect Iran’s leaders to change course at this point. The question is whether Saudi Arabian F-15s armed with JDAMs and HARMs can by themselves provide effective deterrence against Iranian nuclear-armed surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. If not, U.S. leaders will face difficult questions about what additional measures might be necessary to create strategic balance around the Persian Gulf.

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