Saudi Arabia eyes $495M Black Hawk helicopters deal with US
Sikorsky Black Hawks have served in combat during conflicts in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and other areas in the Middle East. (Wikipedia)
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The United States of America’s government approved a possible deal to sell Black Hawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia, Pentagon said in a statement.
Valued at $495m, the deal includes the sale of nine UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said. The helicopters, manufactured by Sikorsky aircraft, are used widely by defense forces.
The deal will bolster Saudi Arabia’s ability to fight Houhti insurgents in Yemen, where it is leading a coalition of Gulf Arab countries in conducting air strikes. The kingdom is also heavily involved in the fight against Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq.
DSCA, which overseas arms sales to foreign parties, said that the helicopters will be used for search and rescue, disaster relief, humanitarian support, counterterrorism and for combat.
Saudi Arabia’s proximity to conflict-filled areas such as Iraq and Yemen has led to a growth in its defense spending. The country’s defense budget is estimated to grow by 27 per cent in the next five years, owing to worsening conflict in the region, analysts say.
According to consultancy IHS, Saudi Arabia’s defense spending will reach $48.7bn this year, down 2 per cent from 2014. But expenditure is forecast to grow steadily over the next few years to reach $62bn by 2020, the report said.
Meanwhile, US arms makers and defense equipment manufacturers have been a leading beneficiary of the kingdom’s burgeoning military budget over the recent years.
Recently Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia is in advance discussions with the US government for a potential deal to buy two frigates based on a coastal warship that Lockheed Martin Corp is building for the US Navy. Valued at over $1bn, the deal is expected to be completed by the end of this year, the report added.
The kingdom also recently signed a deal with France to buy 30 patrol boats during a visit by Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
By Mary Sophia
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