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U.S inks fighter deal with Saudi Arabia that could mean more jobs in Hazelwood

The Obama administration has inked a deal with Saudi Arabia that will provide the Gulf state with $30 billion in F-15 jets.
(Air Force photo/Capt. Shannon Collins)
The Obama administration has inked a deal with Saudi Arabia that will provide the Gulf state with $30 billion in F-15 jets.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. with information from union spokesman Thomas Pinski.

Updated at 12 p.m. with statement from the White House.

Updated at 1:20 p.m. with comments from union president Gordon King and statement from Boeing.

The Obama administration has approved the sale of $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia - a move that could mean new jobs at Boeing's defense plant in Hazelwood.

"This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security," the White House said in a statement announcing the deal today. Under the agreement, the U.S. will send Saudi Arabia 84 new fighter jets and upgrades for 70 more. It says the deal will support more than 50,000 U.S,. jobs.

Thomas Pinski, the spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 837, which represents employees at the Hazelwood plant, says the deal will ensure the F-15 production line remains in operation until at least 2016. Pinski said that stabilizes the jobs of about 800 people. Jobs could be added if the upgrades also done in St. Louis, but Pinski says Boeing has yet to announce where that work will be done.

"Some of us, that's going to be our retirement plane," Pinski said of the F-15. "Our younger workforce was looking at the next year or two having to worry about a layoff if the F-15 didn't continue. We're very pleased, very happy that Saudi [Arabia] decided to go ahead and sign the deal and our government has approved it."

Union president Gordon King said the Saudi deal was "do or die," and that layoffs might have begun next month without the new order.

Boeing president Jim McNerny released the following statement on the deal:

"We appreciate the efforts of the Obama Administration and the trust of King Abdullah's government in finalizing the agreement, which will support tens of thousands of American jobs and help the Kingdom enhance its defense capabilities and diversify its workforce. ... Boeing is privileged to support the important U.S./Saudi bi-lateral relationship, and we are pleased Saudi Arabia has chosen the proven, state of the art capabilities of our F-15 and rotorcraft platforms."

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.