Gulf states request stand-off weapons
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are interested in acquiring new air-launched weapons that will allow them to carry out precision ground attack strikes at stand-off ranges, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) revealed on 15 October.
A senior US defence official announced in April that Washington had agreed to supply the two Gulf states with "more advanced weaponry than we've sold before", but the munitions involved were not identified.
The DSCA revealed that the munitions include Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOWs), Boeing AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missiles - Expanded Response (SLAM-ERs), and Boeing GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs).
While Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been allowed to buy advanced European weapons for their Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Mirage fighters, the only land-attack missiles they currently have for their US jets are AGM-65 Mavericks, which entered service in 1972, as well as anti-radiation missiles.
The JSOW is a 1,000 lb-class glide bomb with a range of 130 km when launched from high altitude, meaning strike aircraft could remain outside the engagement envelope of many air defence systems.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have respectively requested 973 and 1,200 of the AGM-154C variant, which has a two-stage warhead for penetrating hardened targets. It uses an inertial navigation system (INS) with GPS updates for mid-course guidance and, unlike the other variants, has an imaging infrared (IIR) terminal guidance system that is locked on to a target by the pilot.
The SLAM-ER is a further development of the land-attack variant of the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile. It has a range of 280 km and also has an IIR seeker for terminal guidance. Saudi Arabia has requested 650 SLAM-ERs and the UAE 300.
Both countries have also requested the AWW-13 datalink pods that feed IIR imagery from the AGM-154C and AGM-84H weapons back to the pilots, with Saudi Arabia asking for 60 and the UAE 30.
The GBU-39/B SDB is a 250 lb-class (130 kg) glide bomb that uses a GPS-aided INS guidance system and has a maximum range of about 110 km. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have requested 1,000 and 5,000 SDBs respectively. The latter's request also includes BRU-61 carriage systems, which allow four SDBs to be carried on a single hardpoint.
Unlike the UAE, Saudi Arabia has also requested AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles, which have INS/GPS guidance systems that allow them to engage targets on land as well as at sea.
The DSCA said the estimated costs of the Saudi and Emirati requests, which include associated equipment and support, are USD6.8 billion and USD4 billion respectively. If the proposed sales go ahead, the weapons will be used with Saudi Arabia's Boeing F-15SA and the UAE's Lockheed Martin F-16E/F multirole fighters