Pentagon Reports Higher Proposed Weapons Deals

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, January/February 1999 | Go to article overview

Pentagon Reports Higher Proposed Weapons Deals


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


DESPITE THE ASIAN economic crisis, falling oil prices and decisions by states in Central Europe and Latin America to defer weapons purchases, the Pentagon notified Congress of proposed arms sales in 1998 worth more than $12.1 billion, almost $1.5 billion more than those proposed in 1997. Seventeen countries, including five in the Middle East, requested weapons and services from the Pentagon's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. U.S. arms exports consist of FMS as well as direct commercial sales.

Congress, which under the 1976 Arms Export Control Act can block proposed arms sales, opted not to bar any of the deals. All proposed weapons exports of $14 million or greater (whether FMS or direct commercial sales) must be notified to Congress, although not all result in actual deliveries. Congress has never stopped a sale after formal notification.

With the exception of Kuwait and Norway, all the potential arms buyers sought missiles, rockets or torpedoes, which accounted for approximately $4 billion of the possible deals. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) alone requested $2 billion in bombs and missiles, including the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). The UAE seeks AMRAAMs to arm the 80 F-16C/D fighters whose purchase is being negotiated as a $5 billion direct commercial sale with Lockheed Martin. A U.S. government official said that the fighter deal is still "up in the air" pending resolution of issues between the two governments.

Prior to the proposed UAE deal, the only Middle East country to acquire the beyond-visual-range AMRAAM was Israel. The UAE won U.S. government release of the missile by conditioning the selection of a U.S. fighter on availability of the AM[&AAM. Now other states in the region, led by Bahrain, will likely seek and receive these advanced missiles, greatly improving their air-to-air combat capabilities.

Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE accounted for 60 percent ($7.3 billion) of the potential FMS deals. Israel led all states with $2.6 billion in arms requests, including 60 F-16C/Ds, 30 F-15Is or a combinat:ion of both for a cost of $2.5 billion. An announcement on Israel's selection is expected this spring.

Other requests for advanced weapons included 38 amphibious assault vehicles by Italy. 8 Apache attack helicopters by Singapore, 9 Chinook helicopters by Taiwan and 2 Paladin artillery battalions by Kuwait. Four states (Egypt, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey) requested 22 warships valued at $1.6 billion. All the ships were frigates except for 4 missile destroyers requested by Greece. Athens threatened to cancel the buy if Washington did not reverse a decision to supply the SM-1 Standard missile rather than the Greek-requested SM-2, but no action has yet been taken.

While proposed deals rose in 1998, signed agreements and actual FMS deliveries dropped during the 1998 fiscal year (FY), which runs from October 1, 1997 to September 30, 1998. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees the Pentagon's FMS program, reported $8.5 billion in agreements signed and nearly $14 billion in weapons and services delivered for FY 1998, compared to FY 1997 totals of $8. …

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