Military


Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF)

The Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) [sometimes called the Royal Saudi Navy (RSN)] has a modern headquarters staff with five major branches similar to the Army and Air Forces. Its operational command is divided into two major fleets plus command of the Marine regiment. The Arabian Gulf Division is headquartered at Al Jubail and has bases at Dammam, Ras Tanura, and Al Qatif, plus a naval aviation element. The Red Sea Division is headquartered at Jeddah and has bases at Haqi, Al Wajh, and Yanbu.

After the British announcement that it was withdrawing from East of Suez, the Saudis expanded their minuscule naval force by the acquisition of a few coastal patrol boats and hovercraft from Great Britain. By not acquiring offensive naval vessels the Saudis were tacitly acceding to a Persian-imposed stability in the Gulf as a replacement for that which had been supplied by the departing British. The 1969 contract for three Jaguar fast attack torpedo boats with West Germany again expanded the naval capability only slightly during a period when the littoral states were all seeking workable post-British Persian Gulf policies.

The Saudi Navy was even smaller than the Air Force, with only about one thousand men and a dozen vessels in the early 1970s. The navy had only a few obsolete patrol boats, landing craft, and utility boats. The Iranian seizure of Abu Musa and the two Tumbs in November 1971, provided a new impetus for the development of Saudi military capabilitied. Although its public reaction was mild, Saudi Arabia contracted for a major expansion of its naval forces only three months after the seizure. The Saudi Naval Expansion Program (SNEP) contract agreed to provide thirteen small surface to surface missile equipped ships, a minesweeping force, assorted smaller craft, new shore installations and extensive training.

The development of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces as a guardian force in the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea dates from January 1972 [not 1974, as widely reported] with the initiation of the Saudi Naval Expansion Program (SNEP) with the assistance of the United States. The naval expansion program formally began in January 1972, when Saudi Arabia and the United States signed a general memorandum of understanding establishing the concepts that guided the development of effective naval operations to protect Saudi Arabia’s coastlines. In May, the U.S. secretary of defense designated the U.S. Department of the Navy as the SNEP program manager. The Navy would advise the Saudis concerning weaponry and equipment.

For the next two years, a joint study team from the U.S. Navy and the RSNF designed a modernization plan through which the navy would acquire a score of American vessels—ranging from guided-missile patrol boats to coastal minesweepers and smaller craft—and the ordnance to make them an effective military force for coastal defense. In the same period, the division worked with Parsons, Basil Inc. of Athens, Greece, to prepare a master plan for the first phase of the SNEP construction program. In November 1973, RSNF leaders approved the master plan the designers had prepared.

In April 1974, after delays caused by the Yom Kippur War of the previous October, the American and Saudi governments signed a detailed protocol that specified training of key Saudi personnel, design and construction of two major naval bases at Jubayl and Jiddah, creation of a naval academy, and expansion of smaller facilities. The protocol also called upon the Corps of Engineers to build and equip an RSNF headquarters in Riyadh. Early estimates set the cost for the two ports and the headquarters complex at approximately $350 million over three to four years.

As of 1992, the main combat vessels were four guided-missile frigates and four corvettes, nine missile-armed fast attack craft, and four minesweepers. Between 1980 and 1983, the United States supplied four PCG-1 corvettes (870 tons) each armed with eight Harpoon antiship missiles in addition to six torpedo tubes. Nine fast attack craft, also delivered in the early 1980s, were similarly equipped with Harpoon missiles.

The large arms agreement with Britain in 1988 resulted in a contract for three Sandown-class minesweepers to be delivered between 1991 and 1993. The Sandown Class Single Role Minehunters (SRMHs) are the latest mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) in service with the Royal Navy and are designed to complement the Hunt Class mine countermeasures vessels. As a result of experience gained during the build of the Hunt Class MCMVs, Vosper Thornycroft (UK) Ltd was invited to design the SRMH. The result was the Sandown Class Minehunter of which three SRMH variants are in service with the Royal Saudi Naval Forces.

Saudi Naval Expansion Program-Communications (SNEP-C) system provided the Royal Saudi Naval Forces with a command and control capability between patrol vessels at sea and three shore-based sites in Saudi Arabia: at the RSNF headquarters in Riyadh, Jubail Naval Base on the Arabian Gulf and the Jeddah Naval Base on the Red Sea. The system provides base-to-base and ship-to-shore communications by voice and teletype. Each of the sites has a transmitter, receiver and operations control element with facilities for HF, VHF and UHF communication.

On 14 June 2000, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale of equipment and services to upgrade the Royal Saudi Naval Forces Command, Control and Communications System. The Government of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics services in the development and implementation of a comprehensive 10 year program for the upgrade, development, operation and maintenance program, and system additions to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) Command, Control, and Communications (C3) System. The system additions will include, but are not limited to, installation of commercial data link and mobile communications equipment. The estimated cost is $257 million. This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

The RSNF needed the equipment and services in order to modernize and enhance an aging C3 system that was provided during the period of 1974 through 2000. The program, which will provide commercially available equipment, material and services, will significantly enhance interoperability with U.S., NATO and other Saudi military forces operating in the region. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region. The principal contractors will be Science Applications International Corporation of San Diego, California; PE Systems of Alexandria, Virginia; and Booz, Allen, and Hamilton, Incorporated of McLean, Virginia. There were no offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Naval personnel strength, which was less than 1,000 in 1974, had reached 9,500 by 1991, including 1,500 marines, and was about 13,500 in the year 2010, including 3,000 Marines. The marines were organized as an infantry regiment and were equipped with 140 armored vehicles of Spanish manufacture. It was reported in 1991 that an expansion of the marine corps was contemplated and new inventory requirements were being prepared.

The main naval headquarters were located at Riyadh. The navy was organized into the Western Fleet, with headquarters at Jiddah on the Red Sea, and the Eastern Fleet, with headquarters at Al Jubayl on the Persian Gulf. All four frigates were based in the Red Sea and the four corvettes in the Persian Gulf. Other naval facilities were located at Yanbu, Ad Dammam, and Ras al Mishab. The port of Ad Dammam had a large military sea terminal that proved fully adequate to handle United States and other cargoes during the buildup preceding the Persian Gulf War. The two main bases at Jiddah and Al Jubayl were constructed under SNEP. They were similar to the military cities of the army, with hardened command centers, family housing, schools, mosques, shopping centers, and recreational facilities for naval personnel and their families, in addition to maintenance, logistics, and training facilities.

The Kingdom owned two of the world's largest yachts - Prince Abdul Aziz and Al Yamamah - in the state-owned category; another 13 of the top 100 super-yachts are owned by residents of Saudi Arabia. A megayacht is a motoryacht over 30 meters in length, built to the highest standards of luxury. Strict rules of protocol dictate who in the royal family can own a megayacht, and of what size. Many members of the Saudi Royal Family own such yachts, but most are not government commissioned vessels for state functions. Mega yacht Abdul Aziz is one of the largest mega yachts in the world, and the largest built in the 20th century. Abdul Aziz boasts a length of 482’3?. She was commissioned at a cost of $185 million in 1983 in Denmark. King Abdullah inherited Prince Abdulaziz, a Royal Yacht with Jeddah as its base, from the late King Fahd. It boasts a hospital, a mosque and cinema, and now is estimated to have a value of 50 million Euros.

The royal crest was removed from the twin funnel of Prince Abd al-Aziz after the death of King Fahd in August 2005, as the title of Royal Yacht passed to Abdallah's much smaller al-Yamamah. Over 82 meters long, she was built by Helsingor in 1981 for Saddam Hussein, and named al-Qadissiyat Saddam, but never delivered. The royals acquired her in 1988.

The royally owned 200 million Euro Al Salamah is another in the Saudi Arabian yacht fleet, in the care of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, son of the late Fahd. The 110 million Euro Sarafsa is owned by the Saudi Royal family, probably Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud, and named after his daughter. Formerly in Royal ownership, Issham Al Baher was handed down the line of relatives, and is reputedly Greek now [said to be valued ay 50 million Euros].



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