Washington: The US plans a $6.7 billion sale of 20 heavy cargo aircraft and five refuelling planes to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon announced Friday, in a deal to be approved by Congress.

The deal includes the cost of training, logistical support, parts and associated equipment for the aircraft, said a statement released by the Defence Department’s agency for foreign arms sales.

The statement said prime contractors will be Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), General Electric Aviation Systems and Rolls Royce Corp.

Notice of the deal was sent to Congress on Thursday, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said, noting the proposed sale of 20 C-130J-30 Super Hercules planes and five KC-130J aircraft – an extended-range tanker version of the C-130s – would sustain Saudi Arabia’s “aging fleet.”

Congress has 30 days to raise objections, otherwise the deal will be concluded.

The statement said the sale would “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.”

Riyadh has significantly increased its military spending in recent years and in 2010 signed a $60 billion arms deal with Washington, the kingdom’s biggest defense supplier.

And at the end of 2011, the two countries announced the signing of a $30 billion deal to provide Saudi Arabia with 84 new fighter jets, a move the United States said sent a “strong message” to the Gulf region.

The C-130J-30 variant of the four-engine turbo-prop plane that Saudi Arabia is seeking has 15 extra feet of fuselage compared with the plane’s standard model, according to Lockheed, the plane’s maker. The extra space lets the plane carry two additional cargo pallets, according to Lockheed’s website. The KC-130 J refuelling plane is also made by Bethesda, Maryland- based Lockheed.

The proposed “sale to Saudi Arabia represents the largest foreign military sale of C-130s in the programme’s history,” Peter Simmons, a Lockheed spokesman said in an e-mail.

The possible sale also includes 120 engines, including 20 spares made by London-based Rolls Royce Holdings Plc, and 25 Link-16 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems made by Rockwell Collins Inc. based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Saudi Arabia received its first C-130 in 1965, according to Lockheed Martin’s website. The Middle East kingdom now operates 50 older models of the transports, Simmons said.

The proposed sale of the transport planes follows the Pentagon’s announcement this week that Qatar is seeking US missile defence systems.

ref: www.gulfnews.com