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Kuwaiti Air Force - Modernization

Kuwaiti Air Force - Not In Use The Military Balance estimated that the immediate postwar complement of the air force was 1,000, with thirty-four combat aircraft and twelve armed helicopters remaining. By early 1993, however, air force personnel numbered about 2,500, with seventy-four combat aircraft, including McDonnell Douglas A-4s and F-18s, and twenty armed helicopters.

Kuwait purchased 32 single-seat F/A-1BC and eight two-seat F/A-18D versions. Officially rolled out during an October 6 ceremony at McDonnell Douglas‘ St. Louis. plant, Kuwait's first F/A-18D (Serial 441] was the first aircraft to be powered by the new higher-thrust General Electric F404-GE-402 Enhanced Performance Engine. The new engine power all new F/A-18s for the Navy and Marine Corps starting in 1992.

In addition to Iraq's capture of the four batteries of I-Hawk medium-range SAMs, most of the fleet of transport aircraft was lost to Iraq. Before the occupation of the amirate, the Kuwaiti air force had ordered forty United States F18 fighter aircraft plus air-to-air missiles and cluster bombs. Deliveries under this order began in the first half of 1992. Kuwait acquired the strongest air defense network in the Persian Gulf region under a proposal announced by the United States in March 1992 to transfer six Patriot antiballistic missile SAM firing units (each consisting of up to four quadruple launchers, radar, and a control station) and six batteries of Hawk SAMs. The sale included 450 Patriot missiles and 342 Hawk missiles.

On November 29, 2009 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Kuwait for the design and construction of facilities and infrastructure for Al Mubarak Air Base and the Kuwait Air Force Headquarters Complex for an estimated cost of $700 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will provide engineering, planning, design, acquisition, contract administration, construction management, and other technical services for construction of facilities and infrastructure (repair, rehabilitation, and new construction) in support of the administrative, operational, storage, support facilities and utility infrastructure of the Kuwait Air Force. The scope of the program includes provision of technical assistance for facilities that include administrative, operations, passenger processing, air crew, billeting, community support, maintenance and air control, perimeter security, supply and storage, and utility infrastructure.

Kuwait engaged in a massive military purchasing drive including hundreds of US-built M1A2 Abrams tanks and 40 F/A-18 Hornet aircraft to serve as the backbone of their new air force. The first batch of six F-18 Hornet aircraft arrived in January 1992. In early 1992, Kuwait also purchased a number of U.S.-built air defense systems, including both Hawk and Patriot missile systems. Kuwait engaged in extensive joint training with a number of allies, including the United States, as a way of helping ensure broad-based political support for Kuwait in any future confrontation.

Military procurement and upgrading continued, although it slowed. In 2006 Kuwait purchased 24 Apache Longbow attack helicopters, which they began receiving in November 2007. During the late 1990s and early 2000s as the Chief of Naval Education and Training(CNET) was undergoing a Revolution in Training that limited international attendance in certain areas of training, U.S. Navy training was still being sought out by international partners. Seeking ways to fill the training gap, NETSAFA (Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity) International Training Center (NITC) added many more specialized preparatory and non-aviation training courses all driven by international demand. The Kuwait Air Force(KAF) had a five-year ongoing program to train over 200 aircraft maintenance technicians for their AH-64D Apache helicopter fleet. Follow on training for the KAF was at the U.S. Army training school in Fort Eustis, Virginia.


On 21 October 2015 Kuwait signed a number of major military deals with France, amid concerns in the Arab kingdom about potential terrorist attacks by the Daesh Takfiri militants. According to the French government, the deals, which include fixed and provisional agreements worth USD 2.8 billion (about 2.5 billion euros), led by the purchase of 24 Airbus-built EC725 [recently rebranded as the H225M] Caracal helicopters for which Kuwait City is set to pay one billion euros with an option for a further six. The Caracal is equipped with radar missile protection as well as air-to-ground and air-to-sea missiles among its weaponry. The chopper is deployed on combat rescue missions and long-distance troop transport.

Kuwait’s fleet of H225M Caracal will be used for a wide variety of missions such as combat search-and-rescue, naval operations, medical evacuation and military transportation. The helicopters will be operated by the Kuwait Air Force and the Kuwait National Guard. A combat-proven platform with exceptional payload, a world-class automatic flight control system and long endurance, the H225M Caracal has demonstrated its versatility and performance even in the harshest operational environments. The H225M Caracal is the latest evolution of the successful Super Puma / Cougar family of military helicopters, with more than 500 units delivered worldwide. Kuwait is the latest nation to join the community of Caracal users with 138 H225M Caracal having been ordered so far by France, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Kuwait.

France will supply 30 military helicopters to Kuwait in a deal worth over one billion euros ($1.1 billion) that French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed in the Gulf state on 09 August 2016. The agreement to buy the versatile Airbus Caracal helicopters is part of a 2.5 billion euro package of deals that the two countries agreed in October 2015. France has given Kuwait military support since the 1990 invasion of the country by Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces. The two countries are also fighting together in the international coalition against the Islamic State jihadist group. "With this deal, Kuwait further strengthens the strategic partnership which has bound together our two countries for several decades, while we are currently engaged side-by-side in the fight against Daesh in Iraq and Syria," Le Drian said in a statement, using the Arabic term for Islamic State. Kuwait's army will use 24 of the helicopters mainly for search and rescue missions and for transport purposes, but they are also fitted with machine guns allowing them to offer ground troops cover from the air. The Kuwait National Guard will operate the remaining six helicopters.

Transport Aircraft

In May 2010 Kuwait ordered KC-130J tankers from Lockheed, which delivered the first of three KC-130J tanker/transports to the Kuwait air force in August 2014. Three Kuwait Air Force KC-130Js landed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC, in July 2014. The arrival of the aircraft marked a significant training milestone in U.S. – Kuwait military relations. Four Kuwait Air Force pilots who had been at Cherry Point since February were scheduled to conduct flight training with the aircraft for 30-45 days with prior Marine Corps pilots who will train them to Marine Corps standards, according to Mark Gibson, the program manager with Aviation Training Consulting. ATC, which provided services to support the Department of Defense, provided instructors for pilots.

On September 24, 2010 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Kuwait of one Boeing C-17 GLOBEMASTER III aircraft and associated parts, equipment and logistics support for a complete package worth approximately $693 million. The Government of Kuwait has requested a possible sale of four Turbofan F117-PW-100 engines installed on the aircraft, one spare Turbofan F117-PW-100 engine, one AN/ALE-47 Counter-Measures Dispensing System (CMDS), one AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning System, aircraft ferry services, refueling support, precision navigation equipment, spare and repairs parts, support, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.

This proposed sale would provide a long-range, strategic airlift capability to the Kuwaiti Air Force (KAF) allowing them to meet operational requirements. The KAF is tasked with relief support, humanitarian disaster and peacekeeping missions, as well as transporting dignitaries and cultural assets to various regional and international destinations. This proposed sale will further enhance its interoperability with the U.S. Air Force airlift system in the region. Kuwait will have no difficulty absorbing this aircraft into its armed forces.

Boeing delivered the first of an expected two C-17 Globemaster III airlifters to Kuwait on 13 February 2014. The provision of a second C-17 provided KAF a more robust regional airlift and long-range strategic airlift capability. The additional C-17 aircraft will allow the KAF to better participate in humanitarian support operations.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress 16 April 2013 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Kuwait for a second C-17 GLOBEMASTER III aircraft and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $371 million.

The Government of Kuwait requested a possible sale of 1 C-17 GLOBEMASTER III aircraft, 4 Turbofan F117-PW-100 Engines, 1 AN/AAR-47 Missile Approach Warning System, 1 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Set (CMDS), secure radios, precision navigation equipment, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, tactics manuals, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, aircraft ferry support, aircraft fuel, and technical and logistics support services; and related elements of initial and follow-on logistical and program support.


On 08 November 2011 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Kuwait for continuing logistics support, contractor maintenance, and technical services in support of the F/A-18 aircraft and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $100 million. The Government of Kuwait requested a possible sale of continuing logistics support, contractor maintenance, and technical services in support of the F/A-18 aircraft to include Contractor Engineering Technical Services/Contractor Maintenance Services, Hush House Maintenance Support services, and Liaison Office Support Services, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $100 million.

Qatar and Kuwait considered buying French Rafale fighter jets, but were waiting to see whether the United Arab Emirates would make a purchase first. French defence minister Gerard Longuet said 09 January 2012 that "They are in effect interested but they won't know for sure until the first one jumps in." The UAE was in talks with France to buy 60 Rafales. Industry experts estimated that Kuwait needed 18-22 new fighter jets and that Qatar needs 24. After opening talks on the purchase in 2008, the UAE said in November 2011 that the offer for Rafales from France's Dassault Aviation was uncompetitive and opened up the tender to competition. In 2013 the UAE decided to purchase 30 Block 61 F-16 aircraft.

During a Gulf tour in February 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said discussions had begun with Kuwait to sell between 14 and 28 Rafales. After success during the conflict in Libya, the Rafale remains in the competition to join the air forces of several Gulf countries including Kuwait. At the international exhibition of defense and aerospace GDA 2011, Rafale International presented the B and C version of its multi-role combat aircraft.

President Sarkozy saw his 10-11 February 2009 visit to the Gulf as a success. The Kuwaiti Emir, Sheikh Sabah, expressed happiness with Sarkozy's visit and seemed particularly interested in the possibility of military cooperation. The Kuwaitis raised the possibility of purchasing some Rafale fighters but "were not very concrete" about the terms of the deal. French President Sarkozy capped a four and a half hour visit to Kuwait February 11 with wildly optimistic statements to the press that France would provide Kuwait with modern fighter aircraft (i.e. the thus-far poorly selling Rafales), marine frigates and unspecified defense systems. While the French side was publicly enthusiastic about this visit and the potential for Rafale fighter sales, privately they acknowledged the glacial pace at which decisions are taken and the inevitable parliamentary obstructionism, especially when it comes to large price tags. The Ministry of Defense expressed surprise and consternation at the Rafale "announcement." Most notably, the Government leadership remained publicly silent on the matter, and all indicators are that the Amir listened with polite receptivity, as is his wont, to a French sales pitch.

But in March 2010, the proposed Rafale buy was derailed and questions were asked in the Kuwait Parliament by the four-man Islamist group known as the Development and Reform Bloc. Jamaan al-Harbash, of the Development and Reform Bloc, claimed that unnamed officials with “vested business interests” were trying to influence the ministry to buy the Rafale.

By December 2011 it was reported that Boeing was offering the F-15SE Silent Eagle to Kuwait as well as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and in February 2012 there were reports that the Kuwaiti Defence Ministry had received calls from the French side to reactivate contacts on the Rafale aircraft.

On 22 September 2015 Kuwait became the newest member of the Eurofighter Typhoon community, signing an MoU for 28 of the fighters, worth up to €8bn. Kuwait signed an agreement with Eurofighter partner Italy (Finmeccania SpA, through its subsidiary Alenia Aermacchi), to buy 28 Eurofighter Typhoons - with training, weapons and support - at a cost of up to €8 billion. It was the first time the Eurofighter Typhoon had secured an order in open competition.

This new international success followed an order from the Sultanate of Oman for 12 aircraft in December 2012 and it is a further evidence of growing interest in the Eurofighter Typhoon across the globe and in the Gulf Region in particular with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman who have already ordered this combat aircraft.

Missile Defense

Kuwait's intention to build new missile defense bases targeting Iran was published on the US Buisness Opportunities Web site on 19 April 2016. According to the report, US Army engineers announced the companies willing to bid for the construction of two air defense facilities at the Ahmed al-Jaber Air Base and Ali al-Salem Air Base, as well as the development of the Air Operations Center "Vista" in the south of Kuwait City. The capital of this country are invited to cooperate. In the documents published by the United States, the type of systems to be deployed in the new air defense facility is still unknown, but it is likely to be similar to the five Patriot missile sites. These new sites will be equipped with 5 launcher launchers, a large radar enclosure, a control station and a telecommunication tower, as well as other Kuwaiti designs, and other protective structures. In the end, the only difference between the new launch pads with previous examples is that Patriot's missile strike is toward Iran. Previous examples of Patriot missile systems and their bases built in the 1990s were towards Iraq. The Patriot missile defense system has the ability to withstand tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and enemy combat aircraft in any weather conditions at any altitude. The key features of the multipurpose patriotic radar system are radar chase guidance and modern software as well as extensive auto-operation. The Patriot is built by Raytheon in Massachusetts and Lockheed Martin's Rocket and Fire Control Company in Florida. In addition to the US, Germany, Greece, the Israeli regime, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Spain and Taiwan, they also have the missile, and Qatar signed a $ 7 billion deal to buy the system in 2014. The Patriot missile defense system was widely involved in the Iraq war and, having settled in Kuwait, managed to destroy some Iraqi missiles launched in Kuwait.

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