State Dept. approves sale of missile defense system to Saudis

The U.S. State Department gave the green light Friday for the potential sale of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to Saudi Arabia.

An estimated price of $15 billion, the possible sale would include fulfilling the Saudi’s request for 44 THAAD launchers, 360 THAAD Interceptor Missiles, 16 THAAD Fire Control and Communications Mobile Tactical Station Group, and seven 7 AN/TPY-2 THAAD radars.

Saudi Arabia would also receive an assortment of trucks, power units, communications equipment, and maintenance equipment, all of which is necessary to maintain the system as part of the agreement.

A statement describing the purpose of the sale from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) read:

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a friendly country.  This sale furthers U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, and supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats.”

The probable sale of the system, according to the DSCA statement, will not alter the strategic military balance in the region.

The approval of the prospective sale is part of a $110 billion arms agreement clinched by President Trump with the Saudis in May.

A state-of-the-art anti-ballistic missile defense package, THAAD employs a unique hit-to-kill technology, kinetic energy, to intercept and destroy incoming short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles.

Thaad missile defence system graphic

(via BBC)

The system is currently deployed in South Korea as part of a military buildup to counter the nuclear ambitions of North Korea.  Installed earlier in 2017, its positioning in South Korea drew sharp rebukes from China and protests from South Koreans.

A deal long sought by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the possible sale is widely viewed as Riyadh’s effort to bolster its military capabilities to counter regional powers, particularly Iran.

With the future of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in doubt, some military experts say the sale of the THAAD system to Saudi Arabia evokes memories of former President Barack Obama’s offer of 600 Patriot missile interceptors to Riyadh weeks following the concluding of the nuclear accord with Tehran.

President Trump has signaled he may decertify the deal this week.


[Middle East Eye]