The Kremlin is moving ahead with plans to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, namely the Russian-made TOS-1A multiple-rocket launch system.
The first batch of the TOS-1A, also known as Solntsepyok or "Burning Sun,” was delivered to the Middle Eastern country according to a $3 billion deal signed during King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud’s first state visit to Moscow, in October 2017. The deal also included the sale of Russia’s most advanced air defense missile system, the S-400 Triumf; the Kornet-EM anti-tank guided missile systems; AGS-30 Atlant automatic grenade launchers; and AK-103 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
Typically an arms buyer that deals with the United States, Riyadh is cooperating with Moscow at the time when the United States has actively promoted sanctions via the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). CAATSA, which went into effect in August 2017, threatens to impose sanctions on any country engaged in what the U.S. Treasury Department terms a “significant transaction” with Russian defense and intelligence sectors.
Commenting on the Saudis’ interest in Russia’s weaponry, military columnist for the Federal News Agency Yury Kotenok said, “It means that the products of our military-industrial complex are in great demand," according to reporting by RIA Novosti.
Kotenok believes that Riyadh's interest in Russian arms is linked to the intense capabilities of the Russian self-propelled multiple rocket launcher system.
"In Syria, I saw the consequences of the work of similar systems used by the Syrian army against terrorist groups. It is impressive and amazing," Kotenok said.
The TOS-1 Buratino is considered one of Moscow's most powerful weapons that has the power to wreak incredible devastation. This enormous 220-millimeter 30-barrel multiple rocket launcher system can fire a rocket carrying fuel-air explosive warheads. The fiery blasts of the TOS-1 Buratino create a partial oxygen vacuum that kills and maims in a variety of ways and cannot be mitigated with body armor or hardcover. The maximum firing range of the launch vehicle is six kilometers (3.7 miles).
"No wonder that the UAE is purchasing our newest armored vehicles. Saudis get all the latest [weaponry] from the United States. And now their attention was attracted by our “Solntsepyok” system - a modification of the “Buratino” complex, a flamethrower system of volley fire, which has thermobaric charges,” Kotenok said.
Although the Kremlin's activities in Syria have put Moscow on the opposite side with the Saudis, who are opposed to Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it has not had adverse consequences for arms deals. As the world’s second largest arms exporter after the United States, Russian arms are saleable in the Middle East, an area that has sharply increased its interests in Russia's defense weapons ever since the Russian military’s intervention in Syria beginning in September 2015.