US okays $500mn helicopter maintenance deal for Saudis

The US State Department approved a $500 million maintenance deal for Saudi Arabia’s military helicopter fleet on Thursday, the first with the monarchy since Joe Biden became president.

The US will provide 350 contractor technicians and two government officials over the next two years to maintain the Saudi military’s Apache and Black Hawk attack helicopters, as well as the future fleet of Chinook transport helicopters, under the agreement, which is a continuation of a previous agreement.

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Prior to his election, Biden threatened to make Saudi leaders “pay” for the assassination of US-based writer Jamal Khashoggi, who was slain by a team linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s court.

Biden ordered a review of all arms deals made by his predecessor, Donald Trump, with Saudi Arabia and other countries in late January.

After failing to meet with the crown prince, who is also the Saudi defense minister, US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin canceled a planned trip to Saudi Arabia last week.

Under Trump, the prince, often known as MBS, was the US government’s main point of contact. However, Biden has stated that he prefers to communicate with MBS’s father, King Salman, directly.

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