Posted March 18, 2021 04:06:58In a surprise move Thursday, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) approved a $5 billion sale of a $1.9 trillion weapons system to a Saudi Arabia-led coalition to fight Islamic State militants in Yemen.
The deal, announced in the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress, was announced after the two countries signed an agreement on the sale of the JF-17 fighter jets that Saudi Arabia and its allies have been battling in Yemen since late March.
“We are pleased to announce the commencement of a joint military sale to Saudi Arabia for the J-20, J-31 and JF18,” Pentagon spokesman Lt.
Col. Mark Wright said in a statement.
“The J-15 is a high-performance jet and the JSF will serve as a replacement for the F-15E, which will also enter the inventory in the coming years.”
The deal was hailed by the Pentagon as a step in the right direction, but critics warned it could create a dangerous precedent for the sale, which the Pentagon had said it would be reviewing.
The JF17 is a $200 million upgrade of the previous JF16, a U.N. Security Council purchase that the Trump administration said it planned to complete by 2020.
But critics have warned that the deal could lead to the sale in the future of a weapons system that has long been considered outdated.
“It’s going to have a major impact on U.K. national security and it’s going and will have a significant impact on American national security,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told MSNBC.
“I don’t think it will be the last time that you’re going to see the Saudis sell an old-school aircraft that’s no longer used, that’s not used by the United States,” Gates said.
“If you look at the legacy of the program, I think the Saudis are very much the problem, not the solution.”
The F-16A and J-21 are similar, with the JAF-19 being a smaller fighter jet, and both are also under development.
The U. S. Department’s Office of the Inspector General said the deal is subject to additional reviews and that it will not be final until later this year.
The Saudi-led Coalition is a U,N.-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia says is fighting the Islamic State.
The U.A.E.-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.