US set to make $10bn AWACS and air defence missile sales in the Gulf

Washington: The Pentagon said last week that it had notified the US Congress of possible arms sales, worth more than $10 billion, to oil-rich Gulf states and also Saudi Arabia in order to strengthen their missile and air defences against Iran.

According to a notice by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA), Saudi Arabia proposes to buy upgraded equipment for five AWACS early warning aircraft, which could be worth up to $400 million, as well as upgrading targeting pods for its F-15 aircraft, which could be worth $220 million.

Boeing Aerospace Company would be the prime contractor for the AWACS equipment, and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Company the prime contractor for the sale of 40 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper advanced targeting pods.

The biggest sale, however, would be to the United Arab Emirates, of a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defence system, worth as much as $9 billion if all options are exercised, the DCSA said.

Notification of the proposed sales in the region come even as US defence secretary Robert Gates was in Bahrain at the end of the week to press for a regional "air and missile defence umbrella" against Iran.

Gates told Alhurra television, a US-funded Arabic language satellite TV network, on Dec.7 that the United States is discussing the need for shared early warning and maritime surveillance with countries in the region.