Saudis May Buy Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers

Saudi Arabia may become the first Middle Eastern nation to buy the world’s most powerful destroyers. Yup Defense News is reporting that U.S Navy officials briefed the Saudi’s on the DDG-51 class Arleigh Burke class destroyers equipped with the famous SPY-1D AEGIS radars that, among many things, are capable of performing in the ballistic missile defense role. Iran is going to love this.

From DN:

Capt. Cate Mueller, spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’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 can’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.

“It’s much more difficult to defeat it - a truck bomb doesn’t matter,” the retired naval officer said. Moreover, “you can move a ship to a particular threat axis. It’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, don’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 isn’t long for this world, a fundamentalist takeover could put a system in the hands of the enemy,” the retired senior naval officer observed.

Here’s the whole article.



  • Matrix_3692

    Remains me of my country, Malaysia. before the 1997 economic crisis, my country is the regional power house, as we build the highest building at that time, we also brought in new weapon systems to modernize the military, like the Mig-29 Fulcrums and F/A-18D Hornets to replace the F-5 Tigers, and new frigates for the navy, but after the crisis, we never got up to our former status. I wonder when will that happen to the Saudis?

  • USA

    Do the Saudis have sailors?

  • david

    Israel won’t allow America to sell this advanced ship to the Saudis. The only way Israel will give the OK is if we give them a few billion dollars or a squadron of F-35s for free.

  • TLAM Strike

    odd are these ships will rarely leave port. Back in ’91 the most challenging task the coalition assigned the Saudi Navy was mine sweeping, they mostly failed at that.

    Royal Saudi Navy = House of Saud Yacht Club.

  • Mastro

    I really doubt we will sell them TLAMS- just Standards and maybe some ASROCS

    • Blight

      Then these Burkes are just air defense destroyers. But that works out for Israel.

  • Jayson

    I don’t recall Saudi Arabia having a benevolent attitude towards Isreal.

    King Abdulla is doing what he can to keep the people from rising up by increasing wages and even certain freedoms - soon even women will be able to drive! Well maybe. Either way Saudi Arabia is still on the bubble to have uprisings.

    The US is playing it good by keeping arms length away from the conflicts. The Arabians Aristocrats don’t like to see change happening and people getting a voice and fighting for their freedoms. They are SCARED.

    The US will only come in if Taliban like regimes become the power and fix that right quick.

  • Stephen N Russell

    Id sell them (minus some tweaks in system) OR Raise price for & IE U Service, Man them & or Build them BUT Raise the fee, Saudis balk, then say Lower your Oil prices.
    & or leave OPEC.

    • joe

      In fairness - they’re trying. Saudi was the leading country pushing hard to increase the production quotas at the most recent conference, but the rest of OPEC was telling them to wind their necks in.

      • dude

        because they have to. no high output no security from america and the economic hitman will overthrow the king in 5 min. the king has no power. the king is americas stooge. what america says the stoog will do. the suadis will sink these ships thhrough incompetence. let me show it off crashes into a man made island

      • Jay

        most of Saudi production is heavy sour, but the real demand is for light sweet crude (which is why Libya is a big deal, their spice is sweet)

        the Sauds can triple production and it would not do much to the price

  • Nadnerbus

    What’s more important here? The threat from Iran or the threat of Saudi implosion? I guess if we’re more worried about Iran (I think we are), it is in our best interest to equip the Saudis with some some form of Aegis, since that is money we don’t have to spend ourselves to contain Iran. Right now the US ship building industry can certainly use the orders, or even better, sell them a couple SLEPed older Burkes to defray the costs of replacing them with shiny new ones.

    I question whether the Saudi navy has any chance of running these complicated ships in an effective manner without having contractors essentially crew them for them.

    There is also the obvious possible parallel with Iran and the Kid class. How much tech can we strip off a Burke when selling to a shady ally and still have them be effective combatants?

    • Guest

      Iran is not a threat to the US. The Saudis or Israelis, maybe. So I’m all for the local states carrying a larger share of the burden. Did you read the cableleaks about how the Saudis have been clamoring for us to do something about Iran? Well let them pay for it then! And of course we will only sell a small basket of SM-3s and a self-defense complement of ASROCs, torps, harps and maybe even TASMs. But given the modular VLS, how long would it take to equip them with TLAMs if we wanted to? Just disable some software but leave it in the code to enable if the need arises. Further the contractor support has to be part of the plan. We’re already doing plenty of private army stuff, why not navy too? I imagine that Iran would be less concerned about the BMD than the prospect of HUNDREDs of combined TLAMs pacing right outside their door.

  • Blight

    What modifications were made to the Kidds back when they were going to go to the Shah? Won’t the Burkes need them too?

    Wonder if Saudi LCS is ready for Iranian missile boats..

    • TLAM Strike

      Mostly the mods for the Kidds were great AC and sand filters.

      The biggest threat to Iranian missile boats is an armed helicopter. The LCS has two or more (if carrying drone helos) making it a nasty threat to them.

  • Serpentine

    Fantastic arming the enemies of the west all over again, the country that is spreading the worlds worst ideological cancer throughout the west now getting new arms from it…

  • Timekeeper

    Picking sides and getting armed…..