By Morgan Artyukhina – Nov 4, 2021
The Pentagon announced on Thursday it had received approval for a potential sale of $650 million worth of air-to-air missiles to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which oversees technology transfers between the US and foreign partners, said on Thursday that the State Department had given its approval for interceptor missiles to be sold to Saudi Arabia.
The weapons in question are AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), a radar-guided missile built by Raytheon that’s used by interceptor aircraft to shoot down other aircraft. It has a range of up to 40 nautical miles and its most recent versions have anti-jamming features.
According to US state-owned media Voice of America, the $650 million price tag covers 280 AMRAAMs and is intended to replenish the Saudi missile inventory amid regular shootdowns of Houthi unmanned aerial vehicles flying from Yemen, which target civilian and military infrastructure inside the kingdom, including airfields and oil pipelines.
The deal is not finalized, and Congress will have to also give its approval before the sale can go ahead. However, the State Department’s approval claims to verify that the sale doesn’t violate existing laws and won’t upset the strategic balance of power in the region.
The Houthis, which have no air force of their own, have used UAVs to strike back at Saudi Arabia amid a yearslong air campaign waged in Yemen by the Saudi Royal Air Force that has left the country’s infrastructure in ruins and killed thousands of Yemenis.
Saudi Arabia got involved in the Yemeni civil war in 2015 after Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was driven out of Sana’a by a Houthi advance and fled to Riyadh seeking aid. The Saudis formed a coalition to fight the Houthis that included the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan, and the United States, as well as militias inside Yemen and the Yemeni military forces loyal to Hadi. However, only the Saudi and Yemeni forces remain, and the Houthis have continued to advance.
The US claimed to end its support for Saudi offensive operations earlier this year, with US President Joe Biden saying the US would only defend Saudi Arabia from Houthi attacks inside the kingdom. However, with the Houthis and Saudis waging a war of attrition, helping the Saudis to defend against Houthi attacks also means helping the Saudis to continue to afford waging its war in Yemen.
According to UN estimates, more than 230,000 Yemenis have been killed by the war, with nearly half dying from noncombat causes, such as disease, hunger, and malnutrition.
Featured image: © Photo : US Air Force