WASHINGTON Oct 14 Saudi Arabia signed an
agreement last week with the U.S. government for the purchase of
320 more Patriot PAC-3 missiles built by Lockheed Martin Corp
, and may accelerate its plans to buy the longer-range
THAAD system, a senior Lockheed official told Reuters this week.
The PAC-3 sale is part of a larger possible deal valued at
$5.4 billion for a total of 600 PAC-3 missiles that was approved
by the U.S. government in July. Such approvals, which do not
guarantee a deal will be reached, are followed by negotiations
about an actual sale.
Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, is participating in coalition
efforts to fight Islamic State militants in Syria, while also
battling Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have already
fired Scud missiles against the kingdom. Saudi Arabia also
remains concerned about the growing military strength of Iran.
The PAC-3 missile defends against incoming aircraft and
missiles, and it is currently used by the United States, the
Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and the United Arab
Emirates, according to Lockheed.
Joe Garland, vice president of business development for
Lockheed's missiles and fire control division, told Reuters this
week that Saudi Arabia would likely follow up with a purchase
next year of the remaining 280 PAC-3 missiles in the agreement.
He said the Gulf country was also looking to accelerate a
likely purchase of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense
anti-ballistic missile system known as THAAD, which is also
built by Lockheed, and a deal could be reached in 2017.
Lockheed officials had previously said they were upbeat
about the prospects of reaching a THAAD deal, but that it could
take three to five years to reach a deal.
The U.S. State Department declined comment.
Garland said evolving threats in the region had prompted
Saudi Arabia to "look at the opportunity to accelerate" that
Riki Ellison, founder of the non-profit Missile Defense
Advocacy Alliance, said the urgency of Saudi's missile defense
purchases was driven by Scud missile launches from Yemen and
Saudi Arabia's concerns about Iran.
Separately, the U.S. government said on Wednesday it has
approved the possible sale to Saudi Arabia of nine UH-60M Black
Hawk helicopters built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United
Technologies Corp, in a deal valued at $495
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Frances Kerry)