White House Approves $1.3 Billion Sale of Howitzers to Saudi Arabia

(PKONWEB/BE2C2) — The U.S. State Department said it has approved a possible foreign military sale to Saudi Arabia of 180 Self-Propelled Howitzers.

The proposed foreign military sale “will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States” by strengthening the defensive capabilities of Saudi Arabia, who is a contributing partner to stability in the Middle East, the State Department said.

The State Department assessed that the sale would not alter the basic military balance in the region and comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman concludes a marathon tour of the United States.

Since Prince Mohammed arrived in the US two weeks ago, the Trump administration has green-lighted more than $2.3 billion in arms sales to the kingdom, including more than $1 billion in missiles while the crown prince was in Washington. The latest deal for $1.3  billion includes about 180 Paladin howitzer systems, artillery-firing vehicles on tracks. The vehicles look like a combination of a tank and a cannon, and launch 155mm shells.

The M109A6 Paladin Howitzer system is a self-propelled, indirect-fire support weapon operated by a crew of four.

According to UPI, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the $1.31 billion sale, for which Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are the primary contractors. Congress was notified of the possible sale on Thursday.

The possible foreign military sale would provide Saudi Arabia with “180 155mm M109A5/A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer structures for conversion to 177 M109A6 Paladin Howitzer systems.”

There’s a 30-day window in which lawmakers could act to try to stop it. Typically, the administration obtains informal approval for such deals from key lawmakers before making them public, indicating that Congress is unlikely to act to block the sale.

The deal also includes three Fire Support Combined Arms Tactical Trainers static training, 180 M2 HB .50 Cal Machine Guns, and eight Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems Devices, along with other products and support services, including material to aid in upgrading the Howitzer systems.

US President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, March 20, 2018, in Washington.

During Trump’s visit to Riyadh last year — the first stop on his inaugural foreign trip — the two nations announced that the US would sell $110 billion in military equipment to Saudi Arabia. They said the deal could grow to $350 billion over a decade and include tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications, and cybersecurity technology. Tens of thousands of US jobs could be created, the State Department said at the time.

But no details were announced then, owing in part to the fact that the individual sales require approval from Congress that Trump by himself could not guarantee. Officials said the $1.3 billion in artillery and $1 billion in missiles announced during Prince Mohammed’s 2-week visit are both part of that broader package.

Prince Mohammed after stops in Washington, New York and Boston, has spent this week on the West Coast meeting with prominent business and entertainment leaders. He plans a final stop in the energy hub of Houston on Saturday before returning to Saudi Arabia.

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