The long-awaited deal to choose the frigates for Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Fleet modernization program could be closed before the end of the year, a knowledgeable source said, and the choice of ship will come as little surprise — a variant of Lockheed Martin’s littoral combat ship (LCS).

A letter of request (LoR) from the Saudi Navy that detailed requirements for the program was signed in early August, the source said, and the Saudis have reportedly asked the US Navy and Lockheed to complete a letter of agreement by November. After that, it’s up to the Saudis to agree to the US Foreign Military Sales program and sign.

Competition has been fierce between France and the US for the Saudi Naval Expansion Program. The French hold most contracts to modernize the Western Fleet, based in the Red Sea. Lockheed Martin and the US Navy have been working strenuously to seal an Eastern Fleet deal. […]