Saudi Arabia’s GBU-39 SDB I purchase approved by US

The US has approved the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of 3,000 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) munitions to Saudi Arabia, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on December 29.

Approval of the potential deal, worth an estimated US$290m, was announced in a media release by the DSCA, after it had notified the US Congress of the possible sale. The deal includes 3,000 individual GBU-39 SDB I air-to-ground munitions, along with containers, support equipment, spares/repair parts and weapon, technical and logistical support services.

GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I [US Air National Guard/Staff Sgt Jordan Martin]
Four GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I (SDB I) air-to-ground weapons sit in the munitions storage area at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar on November 27, 2020. US Air National Guard/Staff Sgt Jordan Martin

In the media release, the DSCA said: “The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing its stocks of long-range, precision air-to-ground munitions. The size and accuracy of the SDB I allows for an effective munition with less collateral damage. The potential sale will further strengthen the interoperability between the [US] and Saudi Arabia.”

Boeing, operating from St Louis, Missouri, will serve as the principal contractor for this possible FMS. No offset agreements have been proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Saudi Arabia’s request to purchase the GBU-39 SDB I munition comes after the nation received its final batch of new-build Boeing F-15SA (Saudi Advanced) Strike Eagle multi-role fighters in December 2020. The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) currently operates 84 examples of the F-15SA, which will be complemented by an additional 68 F-15S aircraft that are being locally upgraded to ‘SA’ standard. The GBU-39 SDB I munition can be employed by the Strike Eagle, as well as the RSAF’s ageing Panavia Tornado IDS fleet.