|The US deal will supply Saudi Arabia with F-15 fighter jets, as well as modernising 70 existing planes [EPA]|
The United States said it had signed a $29.4bn deal to provide F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in a move likely to be seen as part of efforts to counter Iran.
The deal will supply 84 new Boeing F-15SA aircraft and modernise 70 existing planes and include munitions, spare parts, training and maintenance contracts, Josh Earnest, White House deputy spokesman, said.
“This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates the US commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security,” Earnest said.
He quoted unidentified experts as saying that the deal would support more than 50,000 American jobs, at a time of high unemployment, and provide $3.5bn in annual impact to the US economy.
The deal was announced formally as President Barack Obama vacationed in his native state of Hawaii, but had been first unveiled as far back as October 2010 as part of a $60bn US arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
The delivery of the package would unfold over 15 to 20 years and also includes Apache attack helicopters and Black Hawk choppers, defense officials said.
Thursday’s announcement came at a time when tensions between Iran and the United States and its Gulf allies are rising, partly due to Tehran’s nuclear drive.
Iran has rejected a warning that the US military would not tolerate an attempt by Tehran to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to tankers in a move that would threaten deep disruption to global oil supplies.