Saudi Arabia’s $11 billion Multi-Mission Surface Combatant
Two weeks ago, the United States Department of State approved the potential sale of four customized Lockheed Martin littoral combat ships (LCS) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for an estimated $11.25 billion. The Saudi version of the ships, called the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC), are heavily armored versions of the Lockheed Freedom-class LCS. The sale has a traceable story in Avascent Analytics’ data and projections. Let’s take a look back on how the MMSC came to fruition.
The program had a long history — Saudi Arabia expressed interest in 2014 in buying at least 6 FREMM frigates from France, as the French hold the majority of contracts for KSA’s Western fleet. The likely purchases of the MMSC had been in our data as a smaller projection since January 2015, originally as a “Projected Frigate/Surface Combatant” based on a January 2015 letter of request (LoR) from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. that outlined plans for highly weaponized “frigate-like” warships. As more details emerged, descriptions and projections were improved, but it remained just that—a projection. In the last few months, aided by a visit to America by King Salman, it became clear that a version of the Lockheed LCS would be the Saudi ship of choice. In a sense, it was a closed competition despite no official contract. With the late October DSCA request, funding expectations are now clearer, and the specific systems on board the ship are outlined. The State Department said of the deal: “These vessels represent a generational upgrade to Saudi naval capabilities and will mark the first major export of a newly built U.S.-manufactured surface naval vessel in years”. With the first advanced American-made LCS out the door, how many will follow? Avascent projects potential frigate purchases in Oman, Algeria, and Kuwait over the next ten years, and the LCS could be on their wish lists.
Spurred by Iran deal, Israel submits defense wish list to U.S.
An additional squadron of Boeing F-15s has been revealed as one of the elements of a “compensation package” requested by Israel in exchange for the US lifting sanctions against Iran. In particular, Israel expressed interest in acquiring the advanced F-15E Silent Eagle with its low-observable profile. The squadron would be equipped with Israeli-developed systems (avionics, satellite comms, and Israeli weapons integration), as well as conformal fuel tanks for extended-range performance. There is also a possibility that these F-15s would be upgraded with new AESA radars.
Israel’s request is very much in line with its historical F-15 capability and its current strategic requirements. Over the past few decades, Israel adapted its fleet of 58 F-15s to perform as long-range multi-role strike aircraft with conformal fuel tanks and precision-guided munition integration. Israel’s new request for more of these highly-capable aircraft indicates a commitment to maintaining the capability to strike targets further away – especially Iran.
The request also comes after government disagreement last year over the size of Israel’s F-35 purchase. Beyond its first order of 19 aircraft, Israel is operating under a ‘14+17’ agreement – rather than committing to a second batch of 31 aircraft, 14 will be committed while 17 will remain a future option. If this F-15E request is accepted by the U.S., it will likely further decrease the final size of Israel’s F-35 fleet.
Weekly Political Report
House out of Session while Senate works on Appropriations & NDAA
The House is out of session this week, but the Senate is here for two days as both chambers take time off for Veterans Day. The Senate will vote on Tuesday morning on the House’s revised version of the NDAA. In addition, work will continue on the Military Construction-VA appropriations bill, the first appropriations bill to come to the floor under the new budget agreement. It is unclear when there might be a vote on the appropriations bill, but it is likely the Senate would want to act prior to Veterans Day.
Congressional Defense Activity
- The House is out of session and the Senate is only working Monday and Tuesday.
House Defense Activity
- House Armed Services Hearings: Out of Session
Senate Armed Services Hearings:
- 11/10 – 30 Years of Goldwater-Nichols Reform
Government Activity Round-up
- Interesting/noteworthy GAO/CBO reports
- CBO assessment of the National Defense Authorization Act