The Biden administration notified lawmakers Thursday that it has approved a $650 million sale of air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia in what marks US President Joe Biden's first arms sale to the Kingdom.
Riyadh requested 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers (MRLs) as well as supporting equipment such as spare and repair parts, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement. The State Department has signed-off on the request.
"The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing its stocks of medium-range missiles for its fighter aircraft fleet for its national defense," the Pentagon agency said, noting it will bolster Saudi Arabia's fleet of Eurofighter Typhoon, F-15C/D, F-15S and F-I5SA jet fighters.
Raytheon is poised to be the sale's "principal contractor," the agency added.
The administration's notification to lawmakers kicks off a 30-day congressional review period in which Biden's Democrats are likely to voice objections. Democrats have vocally opposed efforts to assist the kingdom given Riyadh's air campaign in Yemen, which has been dogged by rights violations, and its murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Congress can block or modify approved sales by passing legislation at any point before the 30-day window closes.
The legislative bid to out-maneuver the president would have to ensure that any legislation to block or modify the sale has enough support to override a likely presidential veto, according to the Congressional Research Service. No arms sale has ever been successfully halted via that method, it added.