US okays $500m copter maintenance deal with Saudi Arabia

Six UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopters assigned to U.S. and Saudi Arabian forces approach the final objective during Friendship and Ironhawk 3, a two-week military-to-military exercise at the Tactical Training Center in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, April 14. The exercise allowed the Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade of the New York National Guard to share tactics, techniques and procedures at the platoon, company, battalion and brigade level in order to improve interoperability and strengthen ties with their Saudi counterparts.

The US Department of State has approved a possible $500 million sale to Saudi Arabia to provide maintenance services to the country’s helicopter fleet, according to a statement released Thursday.

Despite the deal being a continuation of a prior agreement, the US package includes maintenance support services for helicopters, including Saudi Arabia’s Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, as well as a future fleet of CH-47D Chinook helicopters.

“This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East,” the State Department announced.

Washington said the deal would also help improve Saudi Arabia’s capability “to meet current and future threats”.

The deal will also aid in maintaining Saudi Arabia’s rotary-wing aircraft fleet, engines, avionics, weapons, and missile components, the State Department added.

“Saudi Arabia will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces,” it continued.

The deal has been sent to Congress for review and approval.

Thursday’s announcement comes after the Joe Biden administration froze weapons sales to Saudi Arabia shortly after taking office.

Biden also halted US support to “offensive operations” in Yemen in support of Saudi Arabia while removing the Iran-backed Houthis from the terror blacklist.

Last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia and meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The visit was rescheduled at the last minute due to a scheduling conflict.

Source: Al-Arabiya

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