In the wake of current events I've been wondering about the status of previously discussed defense deals with Saudi Arabia, and it does appear Saudi Arabia is still moving forward with their naval buildup.
Saudi Arabia has asked the United States for prices for surface warships with integrated air and missile defenses, helicopters, patrol craft and shore infrastructure, the U.S. Navy said on Friday.It is unclear how current events not named Iran taking place in the Middle East are impacting this deal, but the project has been in the works for several years. Saudi Arabia has spent a great deal of money over the last several years on tanks, helicopters, aircraft, and numerous other weapons - but the expected spending on naval power never came.
The Navy is preparing a rough cost estimate that would be delivered possibly as soon as May, Navy spokeswoman Captain Cate Mueller told Reuters.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest U.S. arms buyer and is expected to remain so despite political upheaval in the Middle East.
The request for medium surface combat ships and the rest of the hardware was received by the Navy in July through the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, Mueller said.
Earlier on Friday, Lockheed Martin Corp executives said the first phase of the so-called Saudi Naval Expansion Program-II could be worth $20 billion, attributing the estimate to U.S. Navy officials. The company would likely vie for any such orders.
It is expected there will be two phases to the naval purchases. The first is for a corvette or small frigate that has long suspected of being one of the Littoral Combat Ship hulls. It is almost a certainty that Lockheed Martin will win the competition over Austal, simply because Lockheed Martin has a long standing working relationship with Saudi Arabia. The decision will not reflect a genuine relative comparison of the two multi-mission platforms competed.
What I'll be waiting to see is to what extent Saudi Arabia attempts to integrate air and missile defense of their new ships with land based air and missile defense assets. It has long been suggested Saudi Arabia is looking to purchase 12 ships, which has me wondering what other services are being looked at to meet the $20 billion total.
It is also important to remember, there are two phases to Saudi Arabia's naval buildup. The corvette - small frigate piece is part one. Saudi Arabia is also in the market for conventional submarines.
It would be very easy to get caught up in the military nature of the contract, but a 12 ship export deal for the United States to Saudi Arabia would be one of the largest export contracts for manufacturing and the shipbuilding industrial sector of the United States in several decades. If and when this contract goes through, expect a lot of political reaction because quite frankly, it will be a very big deal.