The U.S. military plans to provide maintenance and technology support for the Saudi Royal Air Force through 2025, TYT has learned.
On November 30, the U.S. Air Force released a presolicitation notice of its intent to award a contract for a “Product Maintenance and Support Plan.” The package would provide various forms of support, including software and maintenance, to the Saudi Royal Air Force at six different airbases in the regime through December 31, 2025.
According to the notice, the support plan includes maintenance of proprietary software and hardware, as well as spare parts, contractor support, travel costs, and training environment equipment for the the Saudi Royal Air Force. The contract is expected to go to the Massachusetts-based Tactical Communications Group.
News of America's extended commitment comes amid a fierce battle in Congress over the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. Tensions between Washington and Riyadh are running high after the gruesome murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, which crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman personally ordered, the CIA reportedly concluded.
In addition, Congress is debating America's support for the Saudi war in Yemen. The civilian death toll in Yemen has surged following the Saudi-led coalition’s attempt to seize the port city of Hodeida. Yemenis had relied on Hodeida for access to medicines, food, and fuel. With no end to the conflict in sight, the humanitarian crisis has reached dire extremes, with 14 million people at risk of famine, according to the UN. Lacking access to clean water and medicine, Yemen has also suffered the greatest cholera epidemic in recorded history.
Last month, the Trump administration announcement that it would no longer provide aerial refueling of Saudi-coalition aircraft. The announcement was met with approval by critics of the Saudi-led coalition operation in Yemen, which has been implicated in numerous war crimes. But as the contract found by TYT suggests, the Trump administration remains broadly supportive of the coalition.
This is not the first time that the Pentagon’s rhetoric has not comported with its conduct on the subject of Saudi Arabia. In August, TYT reported that the Pentagon planned to train Saudi pilots on U.S. soil. The training included instruction specifically on fighter jet weapons systems. Last year, TYT got the U.S. Army to confirm that American-made helicopters were being used in combat in Yemen.
Back in 2016, this reporter found evidence suggesting that an aerial refuel may have been required for the coalition bombing of a funeral in Sanaa, Yemen, which resulted in the death of 140 people. The bombing was widely condemned by the international community as a war crime. As many as 600 people were injured.
Midair refueling is necessary for air operations involving distances greater than an aircraft’s fuel capacity will permit. Earlier this week, The Atlantic reported that the U.S. had been providing the coalition's aerial refuels without compensation, meaning American tax dollars were paying for them — potentially to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. The Pentagon had previously claimed that midair refuels were a service being sold to the coalition, like many foreign military sales the U.S. participates in.
The Saudi-led coalition airstrikes are known to target Yemen’s food supply. Yemen is presently undergoing a famine, with over five million children at risk of starving to death. So far, at least 85,000 children have already starved to death.
On Wednesday, the House narrowly blocked a vote on whether to cut off U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition by invoking the War Powers Act. The House blocked the vote by a razor-thin margin of 206-203, mostly along party lines, with the vast majority of Republicans joined by five Democrats: Representatives Jim Costa (CA), Al Lawson (FL), Collin Peterson (MN), David Scott (GA), and Dutch Ruppersberger (MD).
Seven other Democrats did not vote.