White House approves $1.3B artillery sale to Saudi Arabia

The State Department said Thursday that the Trump administration has signed off on an agreement to sell more that $1.3 billion in artillery to Saudi Arabia, the second arms deal between the U.S. and Riyadh in as many months.

The package includes about 180 Paladin howitzer systems. The artillery-firing vehicles launch 155mm shells.

On March 22, the administration approved a $1 billion arms sale that included about 6,700 U.S.-built anti-tank missiles, as well as maintenance and spare parts for American tanks and helicopters in Saudi Arabia's arsenal.


Both deals have been concluded since the arrival of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the United States for a three-week tour of the U.S.

Lawmakers will have 30 days to act if they want to try and stop the sale. Days before the first agreement was announced, the Senate debated and then shelved a resolution calling for an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. That measure was opposed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The U.S. is not engaged in the Saudis' bombing campaign in Yemen, but has supported the coalition with refueling, targeting information and other logistics.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, part of the U.S. military, said the sale would "contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States" by boosting the capabilities of a key U.S. partner that contributes to "political stability and economic progress in the Middle East." The agency said the artillery would help the Saudis modernize their military and improve their ability to cooperate with the U.S. military.

The Trump administration and the United States more broadly have laid out the red carpet for Prince Mohammed, the 32-year-old heir to the throne, who is on an ambitious mission to modernize Saudi Arabia and improve its image in the West. After stops in Washington, New York and Boston, the crown prince has spent this week on the West Coast meeting with prominent business and entertainment leaders. He plans a final stop in the energy hub of Houston on Saturday before returning to Saudi Arabia.

During Trump's visit to Riyadh last year -- the first stop on his inaugural foreign trip -- the two nations announced that the U.S. would sell $110 billion in military equipment to Saudi Arabia. They said the deal could grow to $350 billion over a decade and include tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications, and cybersecurity technology. Tens of thousands of U.S. jobs could be created, the State Department said at the time.

But no details were announced then, owing in part to the fact that the individual sales require approval from Congress that Trump by himself could not guarantee. Officials said the $1.3 billion in artillery and $1 billion in missiles announced during Prince Mohammed's visit are both part of that broader package.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.