The U.S. State Department has cleared a $15 billion sale to Saudi Arabia for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor.
The potential sale would give Saudi Arabia 44 THAAD launchers, 360 interceptor missiles, 16 fire control and communications mobile tactical station groups, and seven AN/TPY-2 THAAD radars, along with battery maintenance equipment, generators, personnel and training support services, according to Friday's announcement.
The deal was first announced during President Donald Trump's visit to the country in May.
The news comes the same week as Saudi Arabia is reportedly in talks with Russia to procure S-400 mobile missile batteries -- the same system Turkey, a NATO ally, recently purchased from Moscow.
Trump is also expected to announce next week that the White House will punt the Iran deal recertification issue to Congress. Even with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis backing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- or the international agreement ratified in 2015 that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful -- The Washington Post reports Trump may abandon the deal because it does not advance U.S. interests.
Saudi has notoriously slammed Iran on many fronts. Most recently, King Salman criticized Iran for supporting Syria's Bashar Al-Assad, and supplying weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen, a faction Saudi is trying to abolish.
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The only other country that operates THAAD is the United Arab Emirates, which purchased the system from its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp., in 2012.
In 2013, the U.S. deployed a THAAD Battery to Guam in response to North Korea’s third nuclear test, according to the non-profit organization Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
In response to the growing North Korean threat, the U.S. announced in 2016 it was deploying THAAD to South Korea.
In September, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said his country would deploy four more launchers in the wake of growing threats, including an alleged hydrogen bomb test, and countless missile tests from North Korea this summer.
The U.S. has not yet had to use the interceptor in South Korea.