Saudi Arabia’s military shopping spree

Thom Shanker reports on a new Congressional Research Service reports which finds that U.S. arms sales reached a record high of $66.3 billion last year, more than three quarters of the total global arms market. About half of that comes from sales to Saudi Arabia:  A worldwide economic decline had suppressed arms sales over recent ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
624951_saudi_13.jpg
624951_saudi_13.jpg

Thom Shanker reports on a new Congressional Research Service reports which finds that U.S. arms sales reached a record high of $66.3 billion last year, more than three quarters of the total global arms market. About half of that comes from sales to Saudi Arabia: 

A worldwide economic decline had suppressed arms sales over recent years. But increasing tensions with Iran drove a set of Persian Gulf nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — to purchase American weapons at record levels. These Gulf states do not share a border with Iran, and their arms purchases focused on expensive warplanes and complex missile defense systems.[...]

The agreements with Saudi Arabia included the purchase of 84 advanced F-15 fighters, a variety of ammunition, missiles and logistics support, and upgrades of 70 of the F-15 fighters in the current fleet.

Thom Shanker reports on a new Congressional Research Service reports which finds that U.S. arms sales reached a record high of $66.3 billion last year, more than three quarters of the total global arms market. About half of that comes from sales to Saudi Arabia: 

A worldwide economic decline had suppressed arms sales over recent years. But increasing tensions with Iran drove a set of Persian Gulf nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — to purchase American weapons at record levels. These Gulf states do not share a border with Iran, and their arms purchases focused on expensive warplanes and complex missile defense systems.[…]

The agreements with Saudi Arabia included the purchase of 84 advanced F-15 fighters, a variety of ammunition, missiles and logistics support, and upgrades of 70 of the F-15 fighters in the current fleet.

Sales to Saudi Arabia last year also included dozens of Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, all contributing to a total Saudi weapons deal from the United States of $33.4 billion, according to the study.

As Robert Farley points out, this purchase is several times the size of Iran’s entire defense budget. Put it another way, that purchase alone would give Saudi Arabia the world’s 11th highest military spending. Given that the Kingdom’s total spending in 2011 was just $48.5 billion according to SIPRI, the purchase was a pretty significant upgrade. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.