US to update Saudi artillery for $1.31 billion

Washington: The United States on Thursday approved a contract to sell Saudi Arabia 180 self-propelled artillery systems for $1.31 billion, in the latest stage of perhaps the world’s biggest arms deal.

When US President Donald Trump visited Riyadh last year he boasted that the desert kingdom would spend $110 billion on US equipment and the howitzer contract is one more step towards that goal.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is coming to the end of a three-week US tour that has been dotted with similar signs of his close ties with Trump’s Washington.

In announcing the weapons package, the US State Department described the kingdom as “a leading contributor of political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.”

According to the statement, the latest deal will see Saudi Arabia buy 180 M109A5/A6 medium self-propelled howitzers and equipment to convert these into the M109A6 Paladin artillery system.

Separately, the US also approved a $2.5 billion deal to sell NATO ally Germany four MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance drones.

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