Saudis Seek Sniper ATP Supplementation for F-15S
On Dec 7/07 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s request for 40 of Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pods, which would replace the older LANTIRN twin-pod systems installed on Saudi F-15S Strike Eagles. Sniper ATP pods significantly enhance an aircraft’s strike capability by adding stabilized long-range laser tracking and targeting illumination, high performance day/night surveillance, GPS targeting capabilities, and even some air-air target detection and tracking abilities to aircraft using them.
Most DSCA announcements attract little attention, but Saudi sales are facing some political hurdles in Congress these days.
The estimated contract value for the Sniper ATPs would be $220 million, which would include aircraft installation and checkout, digital data recorders/cartridges, pylons, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, contractor engineering and technical support, and other related elements of program support.
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Company in Dallas, TX would be the prime contractor, and implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of about 4 contractor representatives to Saudi Arabia. It will also require U.S government and contractor personnel to travel to Saudi Arabia to conduct annual, one-week Program Management Reviews.
Sniper ATP’s primary market rival is the Northrop Grumman/RAFAEL LITENING pod, which was developed in Israel and must be considered an unlikely candidate for Saudi sales. To date, Lockheed Martin’s Sniper pods have been ordered by the USAF (whose F-15E Strike Eagles have found them very useful in Iraq) and by Belgium, Britain (Harriers only), Canada, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, and Singapore.
Whether Saudi Arabia adds itself to this list is likely to be affected by the political winds in Congress. Opposition to sales of JDAM GPS-guided smart bombs to Saudi Arabia is rising, leading to a US State Department delay. Newspapers like Britain’s Times of London have referred to Saudi Arabia in recent days as the “hub of world terror“, and Sens. Arlen Specter [R-PA] and Ron Wyden [D-OR] introduced the 2007 Saudi Arabia Accountability Act on Oct 19/07. This move follows attempts to introduce similar bills in 2003 and 2005, both of which died before coming to a vote. Despite this ongoing activity, even resolutions that are more narrowly targeted at weapons sales may have some difficulty in gaining veto-proof (67%) majorities in the US House and Senate. Nothing less is likely stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, given President Bush’s near-certain veto of any hostile resolutions.
UPDATE: Further coverage of Saudi Sniper ATP buys may be found in “The 2006 Saudi Shopping Spree: Pimp My (F-15S) Ride.”