State Dept. approves $15B missile defense sale to Saudi Arabia


The State Department on Friday approved a $15 billion missile defense sale to Saudi Arabia, even as some lawmakers contest the sale over human rights concerns.

The sale - part of a $110 billion defense deal with the kingdom announced in May - is for the Lockheed Martin and Raytheon-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which handles foreign military sales.

Saudi Arabia has requested 44 THAAD launchers, 360 interceptor missiles, radars, batteries, trucks to move the system and other equipment.

"This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a friendly country," the agency notice states. 

"This sale furthers U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, and supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats."

President Trump announced the larger, $110 billion defense deal with Saudi Arabia during a trip to the country earlier this year. The deal quickly drew a bipartisan backlash.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) vowed in June to stop arms sales to Persian Gulf states after Saudi Arabia led a group of nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in cutting diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar.

The countries cited Qatar's relations with Iran and what they say is its support for extremist groups as the reason for the blockade, which is ongoing.