US, Saudi Arabia sign warplanes deal worth $29 bn

 The US has signed a major deal worth about $29 billion to provide F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, the White House announced Thursday.

"The United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have signed a government-to-government agreement under the foreign military sales program to provide advanced F-15SA combat aircraft to the Royal Saudi Air Force," White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest said.

The agreement includes production of 84 new aircraft and modernization of 70 existing aircraft, as well as munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics, Earnest said in a statement.

"This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates the US commitment to a strong Saudi defence capability as a key component to regional security," it said. 

The deal was part of an arms sale package the Obama administration announced more than a year ago, Xinhua reported.

The deal comes as the tension in the Gulf region escalated over Iran's nuclear program. Iran's top officials in recent days threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most critical oil route, if its oil exports are sanctioned by the West.

Top US officials have voiced concerns over the possibility of rising influence by Iran in the region after the US pulled out all its troops from Iraq this month.

The sale was seen as the latest effort of the Obama administration to build a regional coalition to counter Iran. With the new munitions, Saudi Arabia, a key US ally around the Persian Gulf, would be able to expand the country's existing capabilities of the air force.
The Obama administration reportedly also planned arms sale to some other Gulf allies. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the US planned to sell thousands of advanced "bunker-buster" bombs and other munitions to the UAE as a way to keep Iran in check. 

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