On the 29th December 2020, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) approved the sale of Boeing’s GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb-I to Saudi Arabia. The contract worth nearly $300 million and comprises 3,000 pieces of ordnance.
Saudi Arabia depends on the US arms sales in order to modernize its army and develop its combat potential in order to counter Iranian influences in the region. The informal conflict between the Shia and Sunni states deepened with the recent war in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq and includes attacks on Saudi soil. The situation in Yemen is currently the greatest threat to Saudi Arabia as the Houthi movement is being supported by Iran. The Houthis equipped with modern drones can conduct strikes on Arabian oil industry facilities. The Saudi government in Riyadh wants to prevent such a scenario from becoming a reality.
In order to maintain its offensive capabilities, the Royal Saudi Air Force upgraded its fleet of F-15S Eagle under the Saudi Retrofit program. The last batch of new F-15SA was delivered by Boeing only a couple of weeks ago. The sale of (SDB-I) GBU-39 is a part of the F-15 procurement.
The GBU-39 has been in production since 2006, they carry a variety of warheads with a maximum weight of just over 200lbs. They are GPS and inertial navigation system guided and can achieve accuracy of between 5 and 10 meters and a range of over 45 miles.
The sale of the GBU-39s meets the United States’ foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country, as Saudi Arabia is one of the most important allies to the US in the region. In addition, Saudi spending on US weaponry is essential to the American arms industry as it hits a new record high.
However, the sale of ordnance was met with opposition by democratic activists who oppose the further spread of violence. One condemnation of the sale came from the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Sarah Leah Whitson, who stated that the Trump administration was rushing through the sale as a parting gift to Saudi Arabia despite its deplorable human rights record.