WASHINGTON ― The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale to Saudi Arabia of 280 AIM-120C air-to-air missiles in a deal valued at up to $650 million, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
Riyadh requested to buy 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers. The package would also include spare parts, support and logistical services. The principal contractor will be Raytheon Technologies, of Waltham, Mass.
The sale is the Biden administration’s first since it announced in February it had paused indefinitely two precision guided munition sales to Saudi Arabia, worth as much as $760 million, as part of a new policy aimed at curtailing violence in Yemen.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Thursday the proposed sales were being advanced as Saudi Arabia has seen an increase in cross-border attacks from Iranian-backed Houthi fighters over the past year. The weapons would support Saudi Arabia’s Eurofighter Typhoon, F-15C/D, F-15S and F-I5SA.
The spokesperson said the missile has been used to target drones that have threatened U.S. troops and Saudi civilians, but “is not used to engage ground targets.”
The sale “is fully consistent with the administration’s pledge to lead with diplomacy to end the conflict in Yemen while also ensuring Saudi Arabia has the means to defend itself from Iranian-backed Houthi air attacks,” the spokesperson said.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has notified Congress of the sale. However, notifications do not indicate sales are final; if Congress does not reject the potential sale, it goes into negotiations, which determine final quantities of equipment and price.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.