The Weekly Wire: Week of 5/22/2015
On May 20, Saudi Arabia submitted an official request to the DSCA for ten Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters, associated spares, support, and weapons totaling $1.9 billion. A traditional consumer of US platforms, the deal is the second Saudi purchase of MH-60R’s and follows in the steps of other high-profile aircraft sales including AH-64’s and F-15SA’s back in 2010. At first glance, $190 million per helicopter (including both the platform and associated services) appears high, especially when compared against Australia’s purchase of 24 MH-60Rs at roughly $130m per, or the U.S Navy’s purchase of 280 at $47 million per. However the Saudi deal, which also includes 38 Hellfire II missiles and 380 APKWS rocket systems, is likely to be heavily skewed towards services and support. Without the indigenous capability to provide its own maintenance and training for its new purchases, Saudi Arabia – like many GCC countries – tends to outsource these services, resulting in relatively higher per-unit costs.
The Turkish Navy has requested an overhaul of over 17 Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS). As stated in a DSCA notification to Congress, the deal includes four new Block 1B Baseline 2 systems and the upgrade and conversion of 17 existing systems to Block 1B status. In addition, the deal includes associated training materials, spare parts, and logistical support from U.S. contractors already on-site in Turkey. All together, the upgrades will cost Turkey nearly $310 million. The Block 1B configuration provides improved optics against drones, small boats, and missiles. Block 1B CIWS also includes the ability to fire heavier and more effective ammunition. The U.S. Navy is already in the advanced stages of upgrading its own CIWS at a cost of about $4.5 million per unit, and intends to reach full Block 1B status by the end of 2015. The upgrade of Turkish systems is an affirmation of a strong U.S. desire that its allies follow suit.