WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has cleared a potential $15 billion request for Saudi Arabia to purchase the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
The THAAD deal was a core part of the $110 billion weapons sale offering presented by U.S. President Donald Trump during a May 20 visit to Saudi Arabia. The announcement Friday is a notification from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) and does not mean the deal is completed yet.
In June, Defense News was the first to reveal that the U.S. offer to Saudi Arabia included $13.5 billion for seven THAAD batteries, with an estimated delivery time of 2023-2026. Six launchers, with eight interceptors per launcher, generally make up a battery.
The package that cleared Friday would include 44 THAAD launchers, 360 interceptors, 16 THAAD Fire Control and Communications Mobile Tactical Station Groups and seven AN/TPY-2 THAAD radars, along with associated support equipment and training.
There is no timetable listed in the DSCA notification. Prime contractors for the system are Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company and Raytheon. The projected cost would be $15 billion, although the exact dollar figure and equipment totals can shift during negotiations.
As with all DSCA announcements, Congress now has a chance to review and block any foreign military sale. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in June that he would look to block any weapon sales to Gulf Cooperation Council members over their row with Qatar.
However, Corker has since clarified that applies only to sales announced after June of this year, which means the Saudi package, having been announced May 20, would appear exempt. It is possible other members may raise objections.
Notably, the announcement comes just one day after Saudi Arabia announced it was buying the Russian-made S-400 air defense system in a move pundits believe could reflect Riyadh hedging its bets on its relationship with the U.S.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.