US offer of combat ships rejected by Riyadh
Iran Press TV
Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:8PM
Saudi Arabia has reportedly declined the Pentagon's offer of combat ships, which would enable the kingdom to replace and modernize its eastern fleet in the Persian Gulf.
Last week, Riyadh rejected the $4 billion offer for four frigates based on the Lockheed Martin littoral combat ship (LCS) design allegedly over high costs and a long delivery time, Defense News reported on Monday.
The ships, known as Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC), are armed with surface-to-air missiles and a more robust combat system. They comprise the largest part of Saudi Arabia's $16 billion plan to have a modern fleet.
The US and Saudi Arabia initially signed the MMSC contract in October; however, it is not yet known when the contract would be finalized.
The Saudis have balked at the price tag for the MMSC package, believed to be over $3 billion but less than $4 billion.
They also think it would take too long to complete detail design of the ships, conduct systems integration, build the vessels, deliver them and install infrastructure improvements in the country.
According to one source, it would take around seven years to deliver the first ship to Saudi Arabia.
As part of the MMSC package, which includes weapons, logistics, training, and other services, Saudi Arabia has also ordered an unknown number of Lockheed Martin Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters, six smaller corvette-sized ships as well as some smaller vessels and aircraft.
The Saudis, who usually spend a great deal of money on US military products, have had to tighten their belts over the kingdom's ailing economy resulting from the plummeting oil prices and a long-lasting aggression against their impoverished neighbor, Yemen.
According to the Defense News report, the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin are expecting a counteroffer from Riyadh.
The US Department of Defense had hoped a deal with Saudi Arabia would help offset the costs of its own order of 52 ships, which will be reduced to around 40 to meet budgetary cuts.
The UK, another major arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia, has licensed the sales of over eight billion dollars of military hardware to the Arab kingdom since British Prime Minister David Cameron took office in May 2010.
Cameron has been under pressure to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which faces massive criticism from the international community over the unabated war against Yemen, the growing number of beheading as well as crackdown on political dissidents, including the recent execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 others.
Since Saudi airstrikes began in Yemen, more than 7,500 people have been killed and over 14,000 others injured.
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