RIYADH, (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia confirmed on Tuesday it plans to buy more F-15 fighter jets as part of a massive arms deal which the U.S. State Department said in September could be worth up to $60 billion.
In the first comments by a Saudi official on the deal, assistant defence minister Khalid bin Sultan said the two sides remained in talks over final details.
“Talks are continuing according to the agenda and part of it is the purchase of the modified F-15 model,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an airforce graduation ceremony.
In September, U.S. officials said Washington planned to sell weapons worth up to $60 billion to Saudi Arabia including 84 new Boeing F-15 aircraft and 70 Apache helicopters.
But some defence industry officials and analysts have cautioned the deal could be smaller. U.S. defence firm Raytheon has put the total value at $25 billion.
The prospective arms sale is part of U.S. efforts to shore up the military capabilities of its Gulf Arab allies with which it shares concerns that Iran might develop nuclear arms, a charge Iran denies.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action to stop Iran, which says it only wants nuclear power to generate electricity.
Diplomats say an agreement with Saudi Arabia could kick off arms sales to the other five countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates — who are worried about retaliatory strikes in the event of war.