The administration has approved the sale of 40 F/A-18 Hornet fighter-bombers to Kuwait along with nearly 600 missiles and bombs at a total cost of $1.9 billion, officials said Thursday.
The proposed sale to the Arab nation in the strategic Persian Gulf could trigger a battle in Congress, which must approve the sale, with supporters of Israel.The Hornet is a carrier-based aircraft made by McDonnell Douglas Corp. of St. Louis with two engines that give it reliability for long flights over water.
Plans are to send an "informal notification" to Congress soon, possibly Friday, one official said.
"We fully intend to do it," the official said. "Timing is the only issue."
Congress will have the usual 20-day period for informal consideration of all arms sales. If no sufficient opposition materializes, the Pentagon would then submit a formal, public notification, then Congress has 30 days to disapprove.
When the Kuwaiti request was disclosed last month, a State Department spokesman said the sale would be "consistent with our longstanding policy on sales of advanced aircraft to the gulf" nations.
Officials said there has been no indication thus far that the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the so-called Israeli lobby, will oppose the sale of such advanced weapons to its Arab neighbor. If opposed, the sale could trigger an election-year battle when many candidates would value the support of AIPAC and the Jewish community.
In addition to the 40 Hornet aircraft, the proposed sale includes 200 Sparrow and 120 Sidewinder air combat missiles as well as 200 Maverick air-to-ground and 40 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Rockeye bombs, the official said.