The State Department approved a potential deal worth $500 million that would cover the maintenance of Saudia Arabia’s military helicopters, including Apache and Black Hawk attack helicopters, and a future fleet of heavy-lift Chinooks.
The deal is being made through the Foreign Military Sales program, and Saudi Arabia will pay for the US to send contractors to the country. The agreement would require the US to send 350 contractors to Saudi Arabia for two years.
The US also maintains Saudi Arabia’s warplanes that bomb Yemen with contractors through the Foreign Military Sales program. Experts say if the US cut off this support, Riyadh’s air force would be quickly grounded.
This support for the Saudi’s air force continues despite President Biden’s pledge back in February to end “offensive support” for Riyadh’s war in Yemen. The war has been raging, with major battles in the Maarib province and the Bayda province. Saudi airstrikes have been pounding Yemen, and the Houthis are taking significant casualties.
The UN has warned that if conditions don’t change in Yemen, 400,000 children under the age of five will starve to death in 2021 alone. Conditions caused by the US-backed Saudi-led coalition’s siege tactics have caused widespread disease and mass starvation in the country.
The helicopter deal also came after the US removed several missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia, which Riyadh was not happy about. The State Department said in a statement that the helicopter maintenance agreement will help improve the “security” of Saudi Arabia, which it described as a “friendly country.”
“This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East,” the State Department said.