F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 fighter jet sales to several Middle East countries have been approved by The White House according to the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.

After more than two years in the making, several Middle East countries appear to be on the verge of acquiring 4th Generation fighters from the United States. The foreign military sale from the United States to Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain would consist of F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 fighters.

With US Government orders being limited, Boeing was expected to completely shut down its production lines by the end of the decade if the F-15 and F/A-18 sales were not approved. The fighter lines are important to the region as Boeing employs about 15,000 people at the St. Louis plant. The Super Hornet, Growlers (EA-18G) and F-15 fighters are some of the  main local products. These orders give the production lines new life.

“In my opinion our national interest is being served by pursuing these sales; That always comes first, but a by-product of that is we are keeping production lines functioning in case we need to utilize those in the future,” said Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The foreign military sales consist of 72 Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles for Qatar and up to 40 Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets for Kuwait. Bahrain’s package includes Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters.

According to Loren Thompson, the F-15 sale to Qatar would be worth about $4 billion to Boeing’s defense business if all options are exercised. Qatar requested 36 fighters with the option to purchase an additional 36. The F/A-18 package will consist of 28 Super Hornets and an option for 12 more and could be worth nearly $3 billion. Low observable “Stealth” features are not a part of the sale.

“These countries are buying equipment that is interoperable with our equipment which gives us the opportunity to deal with crises as they occur,” Corker said.

Interoperability has been a key factor for approving the sale. However, the delay for approval stemmed partly from Israeli objections. The US is mandated to protect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region. Providing 4th generation fighters to other countries in the region could shift that balance.

After approval from The White House, Congress must review the sale for final approval. Lawmakers rarely disapprove such a measure, particularly in an election year with potential jobs in their home states and districts being created or preserved.