The sale “will replenish the Royal Saudi Air Force’s (RSAF) current inventory, augmenting Saudi Arabia’s capability,” a State Department official said.
The deal includes a shipment of more than 19,000 smart bombs, including 5,200 Paveway II laser-guided bombs in their GBU-10 and GBU-12 variants, along with 1,100 of the more modern, longer-range GBU-24 Paveway III bombs, AFP reported.
Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition against Iranian-backed Houthi Shi’a rebels in Yemen. The Saudis have been criticized by some human rights groups for civilian casualties resulting from the bombings in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is also part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State terror group.
The weapons sale comes amid strained relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia over the Iran nuclear deal. While not as vocal as Israel, Saudi Arabia disapproves of the Obama administration-brokered deal with its regional rival over fears that it could lead to a nuclear arms race and bolster Iran’s support for terror groups in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.