DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The US Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin a $263 million contract to sustain the Saudi Arabia's F-15 sensor suite, the company announced today Sunday. 

Under the contract, Lockheed will partner with Saudi company Advanced Electronics Company to sustain the sensor suite on the Royal Saudi Air Force's F-15 fleet: Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods, which provide air-to-ground and air-to-air targeting capability; LANTIRN Extended Range navigation pods; and Infrared Search and Track (IRST) systems.

Lockheed and AEC will perform Sniper ATP and LANTIRN ER sustainment services, as well as LANTIRN ER upgrades, at a facility in Saudi Arabia, Paul Lemmo, Lockheed's vice president of fire control and SOF CLSS programs, told Defense News in an interview at the Dubai Air Show. By enabling the Saudis to support the sensors in country, the sustainment contract will save them time and money, Lemmo said. In addition, the collaboration will provide jobs in Saudi, he said.

Lockheed will support IRST sustainment at its IRST depot in Orlando, Florida.

The deal is part of Lockheed's strong push to sell the Sniper pods internationally, Lemmo stressed.

"We see a lot of opportunity not only in the Middle Eastern region but around the world," Lemmo said. "Anywhere you have fourth-generation aircraft you are typically going to have an external targeting pod, and Sniper targeting pod is really the predominant pod worldwide for air-ground targeting."

Lockheed has seen an uptick in demand across the region since the campaign against the Islamic State began last year, and more recently the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, Lemmo said.

"I'd say that a lot of the deals were in the works, but the sense of urgency has increased" since the turmoil in the region began, Lemmo said.

During the show, Lockheed is looking to pitch the Sniper pod to other Gulf nations that fly fourth-generation aircraft, Lemmo said.

"Anywhere that you are familiar with a new aircraft purchase in the Middle East, we're going to be there trying to sell Sniper pod," Lemmo said. "And then there are some countries that want to upgrade to maybe a new pod or just increased capabilities, and we will talk to them as well."

Today, Sniper is on predominantly US aircraft, including the F-15, F-18, B-1, B-52, A-10, as well as Japanese F-2, Lemmo said. Lockheed is also working with Dassault to consider integration on the Rafale, and also BAE to integrate onto the Typhoon, he added.

Twitter: @laraseligman