Pentagon approves $1.1 billion Raytheon missile sale to Saudi Arabia

An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. REUTERS/Jason Reed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon has approved the sale of more than 15,000 Raytheon Co anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia under two separate deals valued at nearly $1.1 billion.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign military sales, notified Congress on Thursday that it had approved Saudi Arabia’s request for nearly 14,000 tube-launched, optically tracked wire-guided (TOW) missiles for its national guard, and more than 1,700 similar missiles for the Royal Saudi Land Forces.

The potential sales were announced during Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s current visit to the Gulf, aimed at underscoring the U.S. commitment to Middle East security.

Lawmakers have 30 days to block the proposed sales, although such action is rare.

“The proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a critical partner who has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability in the Middle East,” DSCA said on its website.

The agency said Saudi Arabia would use the missiles to support defense and counterterrorism missions, strengthen its homeland defense and provide a deterrent to regional threats.

Adding the missiles to the Royal Saudi Land Forces’ arsenal would also improve the compatibility of those forces with U.S. forces, and demonstrates the U.S. government’s continued commitment to Saudi military modernization efforts, DSCA said.

Raytheon’s website describes the TOW weapon system as the “premier long-range, precision anti-armor, anti-fortification and anti-amphibious landing weapon system” used around the world. It said the system is in use in nations around the world.

Raytheon shares were little changed at $85.99 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by John Wallace