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US plans Patriot missile sale to Saudi Arabia: Pentagon

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Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile. Photo: Lockheed Martin

WASHINGTON (AFP): The United States plans to sell Patriot missile batteries to Saudi Arabia worth USD 1.75 billion and long-range artillery to the United Arab Emirates valued at about usd 900 million, the Pentagon has said.

The Defence Department on Wednesday informed Congress of the potential arms sales this week as fighter jets from both of the Gulf states took part in a US-led air campaign against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria.

The Saudi government had requested the purchase of 202 Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 missiles -- the most sophisticated version of the Patriot anti-missile weapons -- as well as a flight test target, telemetry kits and other related equipment, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

"The proposed sale will help replenish Saudi's current Patriot missiles which are becoming obsolete and difficult to sustain due to age and the limited availability of repair parts," the agency said.

"The programme will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East," it added.

Both Kuwait and Qatar already have purchased the PAC-3 weapons, which are designed to knock out incoming ballistic missiles as well as enemy aircraft and cruise missiles using ground radar.

Gulf countries in recent years have invested heavily in missile defence weapons, radar as well as air power, mainly as a hedge against Iran which they view as a regional threat.

The Patriot missiles, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, have an estimated range of up to 300 kilometers and have more advanced radar than the older systems.

Separately, the Defence Department notified lawmakers about a planned sale of 12 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) Launchers to the United Arab Emirates for nearly one billion dollars.

The system "will improve the UAE's capability to meet current and future threats and provide greater security for its critical infrastructure," the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said. The weapons, which deliver precise and powerful artillery fire at a long range, would also bolster the UAE military's ability to operate with US forces, it said.

Congress has 30 days to raise objections to the potential arms sales. Without any move to block the deals, the US government can then negotiate contracts with the two countries.

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