WASHINGTON — The Pentagon notified the US Congress of $880 million in possible military sales in Europe, which includes aircraft for France's sub-Saharan Africa campaign, rockets for Finland to protect its Russian border and Hellfire missiles for the United Kingdom's airstrikes against the Islamic State.
The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency reported the potential sales in three announcements on Tuesday.
According to the Pentagon agency, the $650 million package for France includes two Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules transport and two KC-130J refueling aircraft, with a Rolls Royce AE-2100D turboprop engine for each and four spare engines. It also includes AN/ALE 47 electronic countermeasure dispensers, AN/AAR-47A(V)2 missile warning systems, AN/ALR-56M radar warning receivers and other related radios and electronics.
The France sale "will be used to support national, NATO, United Nations, and other coalition operations," according to the announcement, and "greatly increase interoperability" between the US and French air forces, as well as other NATO allies.
France set aside an extra €1.5 billion (US $1.7 billion) to acquire additional equipment, including the C-130, and maintain weapon systems over the next four years, reflecting the intense operations of the armed forces in their campaign against Islamic insurgents in the Sahel. The C-130s have been eyed to plug a gap left by the late delivery of the Airbus A400M transport aircraft.
Russia looms behind the potential $150 million munitions package for Finland. The potential sale would include guided multiple launch rocket system (GMLRS) M31A1 unitary and GMLRS M30A1 alternative warhead rockets, which Finland would use to "strengthen and secure its national borders" and "improve Finland's capability to meet current and future threats."
Finland, a non-NATO country, shares an 830-mile border with Russia.
"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe," the announcement reads.
The news coincided with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's visit to the Nordic defense cooperation group Nordefco in Stockholm, where he called for an increased military presence in Nordic countries to counter Russian aggression. "NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia. We are looking for cooperation and dialogue, but that cooperation must be based on predictability and strength," Stoltenberg reportedly said Tuesday.
Anti-Islamic State operations are driving the potential $80 million package for the UK. The deal would include 500 AGM-114R Hellfire II semi-active laser missiles to aid the UK's ability to provide "close air support to counter enemy attacks on coalition ground forces" in the area covered by US Central Command, which is to say the Mideast and Afghanistan.
The MoD has detailed its near-daily use of Hellfire-armed Reapers over recent months to conduct surveillance and precision airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in battle with Iraqi or Kurdish peshmerga forces. For instance, the MoD touted the 100-pound Hellfire's use on Oct. 23 in destroying an armored personnel carrier hidden in a large building.
The UK, which has 10 Reapers flying against Islamic State targets in Iraq, also recently replenished 500-pound Raytheon Paveway IV precision guided bombs used by RAF Tornado bombers operating out of Cyprus against the Islamic State.
The UK is not the only nation lining up to replenish its US-supplied munitions. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James told reporters at the Dubai Airshow Tuesday that the Pentagon is looking to speed up manufacture and delivery of precision weapons, in response to Gulf partner concerns that their munition supplies are low after 13 months of continuous bombing operations in Syria and Yemen.
With reporting by Aaron Mehta, Andrew Chuter and Pierre Tran.