Saudi Arabia Inks $15 Billion Deal for Lockheed's Missile Defense System

Germany has ended all arms sales to the Kingdom and called on other EU members to do the same

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency.
Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters

Saudi Arabia will buy Lockheed Martin's $15 billion missile defense system, a U.S. Department of State spokesman said on Wednesday, after aggressive lobbying by the administration to close the deal that included a personal call between President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman.

The State Department said the Saudis and U.S. officials signed the letters of offer and acceptance documents on Monday, formalizing terms for Saudi's purchase of 44 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launchers, missiles and related equipment.

In recent weeks the Trump administration and the U.S. defense industry worked to save the few actual deals in the much-touted $110 billion arms package forSaudi Arabia amid rising concerns about the role of the kingdom's leadership in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi critic.

The THAAD deal had been under discussion since December 2016 and is now completed, the spokesperson said.

Trump and King Salman discussed in a late September phone call the THAAD missile defense system deal, a Saudi official told Reuters in October. The official said at that time that the deal could well be closed by the end of the year.

The State Department spokesman said the deal, first reported by CNBC, supports the "long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of the growing ballistic missile threat from the Iranian regime and Iran-backed extremist groups."

Defying the White House, the Senate voted on Wednesday to advance a resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's civil war, setting the stage for a possible final vote on the measure within days. Congressional approval for the THAAD missile defense system sale was given in 2017. 

Germany last week banned 18 Saudis suspected of involvement in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi from much of Europe on Monday and expanded a halt in arms sales to the kingdom.

It had already suspended the approval of future export licences to Saudi Arabia but on Nov. 19 said it had also worked with industry to stop shipments of arms sales already approved. Germany called on all other EU member states take similar steps, which Denmark and Finland did.