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US Finalizes Deal To Sell F-15s To Saudi Arabia

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PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

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WASHINGTON (KMOX/AP) — The Obama administration has finalized the sale of $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, boosting the military strength of a key U.S. ally in the Middle East to help counter Iran.

Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. will send Saudi Arabia 84 new fighter jets and upgrades for 70 more.

The White House says the fighter jets will be manufactured by Boeing, and will support more than 50,000 U.S. jobs. That’s good news for St. Louis. Some defense analysts say nearly a hundred jobs could be created locally, and the production order should keep the St. Louis assembly line open through at least 2016 or 2017.

This is a double-bonus for Boeing – Monday, it was announced that the company was awarded a 7 billion dollar contract to extend the operational life of older F-18 hornets.

Previously written:

WASHINGTON (AP) —The Obama administration is poised to announce the sale of nearly $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets, which are made in St. Louis,  to Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The deal will send 84 new fighter jets and upgrades for 70 more, for a total of $29.4 billion, according to the officials, who requested anonymity because the sale has not been made public.

The agreement boosts the military strength of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, at a time when the Obama administration is looking to counter Iranian threats in the region. Underscoring that effort was a fresh threat this week from Tehran, which warned that it could disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital Persian Gulf oil transport route, if Washington levies new sanctions targeting Iran’s crude oil exports.

About a year ago, the administration got the go-ahead from Congress for a 10-year, $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that included F-15s, helicopters and a broad array of missiles, bombs and delivery systems, as well as radar warning systems and night-vision goggles.

The plan initially raised concerns from pro-Israeli lawmakers, but U.S. officials reassured Congress that Israel’s military edge would not be undercut by the sale. Additionally, there is now broad agreement among Israel, the Gulf Arab states and the West that Iran poses a significant and unpredictable threat.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter regional rivals. Tensions between them were further stoked earlier this year after the U.S. accused Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington.

Saudi Arabia is already the most militarily advanced of the Arab Gulf states, one of the richest countries in the world, and central to American policy in the Middle East. It is also vital to U.S. energy security, with Saudi Arabia ranking as the third-largest source of U.S. oil imports.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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