Saudi Arabia may become the first Middle Eastern nation to buy the worldâ€™s most powerful destroyers. Yup Defense News is reporting that U.S Navy officials briefed the Saudiâ€™s on the DDG-51 class Arleigh Burke class destroyers equipped with the famousÂ SPY-1D AEGIS radars that, among many things, are capable of performing in the ballistic missile defense role. Iran is going to love this.
Capt. Cate Mueller, spokesperson for the U.S. Navyâ€™s acquisition office, confirmed that the “non-binding price and availability (P&A) rough order of magnitude estimate was delivered in May” to the Saudis.
The brief, she said, included information on the capabilities and prices of “medium surface combat ships with integrated air and missile defense capability, helicopters, patrol craft and shore infrastructure.”
The Saudis are looking at several possibly mixes of ships for a planned naval expansion. The kingdom had been contemplating buying Littoral Combat Ships equipped with the smaller, weaker SPY-1F AEGIS radar. That system canâ€™t perform the BMD role. Apparently, the latest briefing to the Saudis proposed a mix of “two destroyers plus an unknown number of LCS vessels.”
As the article says, the addition of DDG-51s to the Saudi navy would cause some waves (doh!) in the region:
“The DDG 51 is the most capable destroyer on the planet,” said one naval expert. “If the Saudis get anything like that, it would be quite significant.”
A seagoing BMD capability would minimize terrorist threats to the system, said one senior retired naval officer.
“Itâ€™s much more difficult to defeat it - a truck bomb doesnâ€™t matter,” the retired naval officer said. Moreover, “you can move a ship to a particular threat axis. Itâ€™s much harder for the other guy to plan against.”
But Iran, the primary threat in the region, already operates three Russian-built Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and is acquiring more small subs, all able to threaten ships at sea. But identification of the target may prove difficult, particularly if an Iranian sub was trying to target Saudi but not U. S. ships.
The addition of BMD-capable ships in the gulf would help the United States, which already maintains at least one such ship in the region.
“If the Saudis always have one in the gulf, it makes it easier for the U.S. Navy to meet its commitments in the region,” the retired senior naval officer said.
Still, donâ€™t forget the uprisings that are shaking the region. While Saudi Arabia seems to have avoided the mass disruptions seen in other Arab nations the possibility of revolution could spook the U.S. from going through with the deal:
“If you think the kingdom isnâ€™t long for this world, a fundamentalist takeover could put a system in the hands of the enemy,” the retired senior naval officer observed.
Hereâ€™s the whole article.