Saudi Arabia has signed a letter of offer and acceptance with the United States for Lockheed Martin’s THAAD missile system, a significant step forward in the $15 billion deal, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to CNBC.
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Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, THAAD, or terminal high altitude area defense, is regarded as America’s crown jewel in missile defense systems.
The development comes as Saudi Arabia is under fire over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as its role in the war in Yemen.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has cited the importance of defense deals in defending his decision to stick with the kingdom in the aftermath of the slaying.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied knowledge of the attack, although the CIA reportedly concluded that he ordered Khashoggi’s death.
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. entered formal discussions for THAAD in December 2016.
“After completing required congressional notifications in 2017, followed by many months of negotiation, signing letters of offer and acceptance marks a step toward protecting the United States and its regional partners from Iranian-origin missiles,” said the State Department spokesperson, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
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