US approves $7b in aircraft sales to Arab allies


The United States on Thursday approved a series of deals worth more than $7 billion to supply military helicopters, planes and missiles to four of its Arab allies.

The green light, announced by the State Department, will mark another windfall for plane maker Boeing and other large US defence manufacturers. But it may face opposition from critics of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ controversial role in Yemen’s ongoing civil war.

The biggest agreement announced Thursday was for the $3.51 billion sale to the Saudi kingdom of 48 CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters with spare engines and machine guns. Boeing and Honeywell Aerospace will be the main contractors. Up to 60 Americans — both private and government employees — will work in Saudi Arabia to maintain the aircraft.

Next, the United Arab Emirates want to spend $3.5 billion on 27 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters plus support equipment, made by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Qatar, meanwhile, has requested eight C-17 military cargo jets and spare engines in a pair of contracts totalling $781 million. And Washington has also approved a contract to sell Morocco 1,200 TOW 2A anti-tank missiles made by US arms giant Raytheon for $108 million.

Although the State Department has approved the sales, after consultation with the Pentagon, Congress could still block them in theory.

Since all four Arab countries involved are US allies and past major arms purchases, however, the contracts are expected to be approved without problems — despite human rights groups’ criticism of US support for the Saudi-led coalition campaign against Huthi rebels in Yemen, which has killed many civilians.