The sale of 84 new Boeing F-15 Eagle supersonic jet fighters to Saudi Arabia and upgrades to 70 other Royal Saudi Air Force warplanes totaling $30 billion dollars was announced on Thursday, December 29, 2011 by President Obama from his White House vacation retreat in Hawaii, as reported on that date by The Wall Street Journal, The Sydney Morning Herald, BBC News, the Toronto based National Post, and other international media outlets.
Confirmation of the huge armament deal also sends a strong political message to Iran which has been threatening to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, a 34-mile wide choke point in the Persian Gulf between Iran and the United Arab Emirates through which an average of 13 tankers carrying 15.5 million barrels of crude oil passes daily.
The Iranians have also been developing a nuclear fuel enrichment facility with the potential of being used in strategic weapons, including missiles and atomic bombs.
Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been stressing the economic benefits of the government to government deal, which is projected to generate more than 50,000 manufacturing and supplier jobs in 44 states, in a ripple effect spreading out from Boeing’s F-15 manufacturing plant in Saint Louis, Missouri.
According to Dennis Muilenburg, head of Boeing’s defense segment, the sale was also part of the aerospace and defense company’s strategy of expanding international sales to grow defense segment revenues from 7% five years ago, to a projected 25-30%.
Jobs in Saudi Arabia will also be created, including parts assembly and manufacturing at a facility in Riyadh, the capital and largest city in the Kingdom, with a population exceeding 5-1/4 million people.
The U.S. Congress would have to sign off on the agreement. Political analysts say that it is unlikely that members of either political party would stand in the way of such a massive financial package, which is a key element to U.S. foreign policy, military defense, and economic growth.
The only concerns have been expressed by sources in the Israeli government over issues of losing their own military superiority.
According to Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Israeli military’s concerns about Iran outweighs the potential risks they might perceive from Saudi Arabia or other Arab states acquiring improved military hardware.
Expressed in another way, as the Government of Israel sees it, any enemy of Iran could be considered as an ally.
The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, which is now owned and manufactured by Boeing, sells at a unit cost of $28 to $30 million dollars a plane.
The high performance, twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter is considered among the most successful modern warplanes with over 100 aerial combat victories with no losses in dogfights.
It is rated at speeds in excess of Mach 2.5, or over 1,650 miles per hour. As of September 2009, the U.S. Air Force operated 367 F-15C/D aircraft. The plane is also flown by the Israeli Air Force, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and the Royal Saudi Air Force, which has operated 4 squadrons of F-15C/D since 1981.
The warplane has a combat radius of 1,222 miles, a ferry range of 3,450 miles, a service ceiling of 65,000 feet, and a rate of climb exceeding 50,000 feet per minute. It has a total of 11 hardpoints or weapons stations, each accommodating various missiles, as well as a 6-barreled gatling cannon, and an array of advanced electronic countermeasures, as seen in the attached slide show and video clip which accompany this report.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have long been bitter regional rivals with tensions escalating earlier this year after the U.S. accused Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington.
The Boeing F-15 arms deal is the latest move in a strategic global geopolitical chess game.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is considered the most militarily advanced of the Arab Gulf states, one of the richest countries in the world, and plays a key role to American policy in the Middle East. It is also vital to U.S. energy security, and ranks as the third-largest source of U.S. oil imports.
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