The State Department has approved the sale of 112 Boeing [BA] fighter jets to Qatar and Kuwait in deals totaling more than $31 billion.
The Qatar sale, which includes 72 F-15QAs, plus weapons and related equipment, training and support, is valued at $21.1 billion, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). The Kuwait sale, which involves 40 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, plus equipment, training and support, is estimated at $10.1 billion.
“This is great news for Boeing and the future of the F-15 and F/A-18 fighter lines,” Boeing spokesman Scott Day said Nov. 18. “With this order, the F-15 as well as the F/A-18 will now be in production into the 2020s.”
DSCA said it formally notified Congress about the possible sales Nov. 17. Lawmakers have 30 days to formally weigh in.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already expressed his support for the sales after conducting “a thorough review of U.S. national security interests, such as our partnerships with Kuwait and Qatar as well as helping preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge,” a spokesman for the senator said.
According to DSCA, Kuwait’s acquisition of the Super Hornet, which is already flown by the U.S. Navy, would “allow for greater interoperability with U.S. forces, providing benefits for training and possible future coalition operations in support of shared regional security objectives.”
DSCA said the F-15QA purchase would improve “Qatar’s capability to meet current and future enemy air-to-air and air-to-ground threats.” The F-15QA would be the Qatari version of the Advanced F-15, “but the final platform requirements have not been established,” Day explained. The Advanced F-15 is a new, upgraded variant of the F-15.
Heidi Grant, Air Force deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, said at an Air Force Association breakfast Nov. 18 that it took about three years to push the Qatar sale through the U.S. government.
“There were many things” that slowed U.S. action, Grant said. “I’m just really happy that the U.S. is able to be the partner of choice,” as Qatar could have gone elsewhere.
The Air Force has been trying to speed up its portion of the foreign military sales (FMS) process, which allies complain is too slow. In September, Air Force Secretary Deborah James announced that the service’s security cooperation officers would receive more training and that the most complex cases, such as those involving F-15s, would receive more attention from senior leaders.
Grant is urging allies to stop tapping the U.S. inventory of precision-guided munitions to replenish their own stockpiles. Ongoing operations have depleted the U.S. inventory, and continuing resolutions make it harder for the U.S. military to increase its purchases.
“Globally, our partners have put munitions down at the bottom of the list,” she said. “We’re trying to change that dialogue and say, ‘you have got to make sure when you’re looking at your budgets, that you look at the most likely scenario in the future … to make sure you have the right mix of munitions.’ The message is there is no longer a large supply. We’re all [facing] resource challenges.”