December 15, 2008 / 8:47 PM / 9 years ago

Pentagon eyes huge potential Saudi deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department is working closely with Saudi Arabia to define and move ahead with a naval modernization program valued at $15 billion to $20 billion, the U.S. admiral in charge of major arms sales said.

<p>Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa, director of the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, briefs reporters on the latest developments of weapons sales monitored by his agency during the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington December 15, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Theiler</p>

“We’re trying to help the Saudis with their Saudi naval expansion program,” Vice Adm. Jeffrey Wieringa told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington on Monday.

“That would be very exciting,” he said, adding that the United States had helped Saudi Arabia modernize its fleet 30 years ago, but those ships were now “mature” and needed to be replaced.

The potential weapons being discussed included a smaller, more agile Littoral Combat Ship under development for the U.S. Navy. Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and General Dynamics Corp (GD.N) are developing separate versions of the new ship for the Navy, and Israel is already studying the Lockheed version for its possible use.

Wieringa said the deal may also include the H-60R Seahawk multimission helicopter built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N); unmanned Fire Scout helicopters built by Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N); and the P-8 maritime surveillance plane being built by Boeing Co (BA.N).

(For summit blog: summitnotebook.reuters.com/)

Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Tim Dobbyn

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