US-Saudi fighter jet sale to help offset Iran

White House says $29.4 billion deal to sell Boeing-made fighter jets would support more than 50,000 US jobs, boost economy.

IAF F15s refueling in-flight 311 (R) (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
IAF F15s refueling in-flight 311 (R)
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
WASHINGTON - The United States will sell $29.4 billion in fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, in a deal the White House said would support more than 50,000 jobs and help reinforce regional security in the Gulf amid mounting tension with Iran.
The sale covers 84 new Boeing F-15 fighters with advanced radar equipment and digital electronic warfare systems plus upgrades of 70 older F-15s as well as munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics.
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While the sale was previously okayed by Congress, the White House announcement comes at a moment of rising tensions in the Gulf region.
Both the United States and Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as a significant potential threat, are worried over Iran's nuclear program. Iranian officials this week repeated threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to mounting US and European economic sanctions.
The sale also comes as President Barack Obama prepares to accelerate his campaign for reelection in November 2012, a campaign likely to be fought over the US economy and job growth.
A White House spokesman said the Saudi arms sales would give the US economy a $3.5 billion annual boost and help bolster exports and jobs.
The Obama administration cleared with Congress more than a year ago the potential sale of more than $60 billion of military hardware to Saudi Arabia over 10 to 15 years, including the F-15s, helicopters and related equipment and services.
The Saudi buildup, part of a wider US buildup of its regional friends and allies, could help offset the departure this month of the last US combat troops in Iraq.
In a statement released in Honolulu, where Obama is vacationing, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the kingdom had an important role to play in keeping watch over the region, which has also seen protests and political turmoil in Yemen.
"This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates the US commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security," he said.