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Pentagon considers selling $1.1 billion worth of arms to Oman  

May 11, 2002 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The U.S. Defense Department plans to sell Oman $1.1 billion worth of arms, including 12 Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Corp. F-16 fighter jets. It would be the first sale of F-16s to Oman, which is located at the entrance of the Persian Gulf and within striking distance of Afghanistan.
The Pentagon notified Congress of the deal on Thursday as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Oman for security talks. Congress has 30 days to approve or reject the proposed sale, although it has rarely opposed sales to allies in the past. "This proposed sale will strengthen Oman as a coalition partner by providing greater interoperability with U.S. and other coalition forces in the region," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

Other countries in the area that already fly F-16s include Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. Oman currently relies on British aircraft but said earlier this year it was going to boost its defense spending and was interested in F-16s.

Under the proposed deal, Oman would receive a dozen F-16Cs in the "block 50" configuration, the latest model in the U.S. inventory.

Deliveries would occur after 2003 and will help stabilize the workforce of about 11,500 at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant.

Also included in the purchase are Lockheed Martin LANTIRN night-attack navigation and laser bomb targeting devices; advanced, medium-range air-to-air missiles known as Amraams, made by Raytheon Co.; kits created by Raytheon to make laser-guided weapons out of bombs; Harpoon antiship missiles from Boeing Co.; and radar equipment.

Critics of arms sales say the Oman deal makes it look as though the U.S. is buying support in the Middle East. "This, unfortunately, is probably just one of many examples we will see of the U.S. selling arms haphazardly around the globe in order to gain lip service from other countries for the war on terrorism, even though the weapons sold, or the countries involved, will not contribute anything to that fight," said Luke Warren of the disarmament group Council for a Livable World.

Oman has opened to U.S. forces in the past, and American military officials are planning to use airfields in the region again during the planned war on terrorism.