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Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces Modernization

The current inventory of air defense weapon systems is varied. The RSADF maintains an inventory of gun systems, self-propelled SHORAD systems, and HIMAD missile systems. To support this complex array of weapons, the RSADF has an Air Defense Operations Center (ADOC) located in each of the six group commands.

There is a modernization effort that has occurred in the Saudi military forces. Air defense, as a relatively new service, is at the forefront of this effort. There are several areas in which the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces have to examine and find competing resources to maintain and evolve their current capabilities. Most of the weapon systems of the Air Defense Forces were purchased in the 1980s and early 1990s. The Saudi government sought and purchased systems from many nations to include those from Europe, the United States, and Asia. It is this sharing of the wealth that will influence the future modernization of the Saudi Armed Forces and the desire to acquire the best at the best price. Governments and contractors alike must be prepared to accommodate the Kingdoms needs with proper understanding of the cultural sensitivities that exist in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its armed forces.

The gun systems within the RSADF are used in support of maneuver units and other air defense operations as deemed necessary. Close-in, as well as medium range, systems can be found within all Group commands.

The first generation of man-portable missile systems are beginning to reach the end of their shelf life and are in the process of being destroyed. This effort was of vital importance to the Department of Defense and a significant effort for the air defense advisors within USMTM. The Mistral, a French man-portable missile system, was purchased by the SAAF in support of its armed forces. The missile was deployed throughout the different group commands. The Crotale/Shahine is another short-range system. Saudi Arabia signed major contracts with European missile house MBDA in late December 2006 for the supply of Mistral 2 land-based low-altitude air-defense systems. The Saudi contract would begin with the delivery of a first batch of Mistral 2s to the Saudi Arabian National Guard [SANG], raterh than the Air Defense Force. The order from Saudi Arabia for the Mistral 2s was the package of potential defense acquisitions for French military equipment.

The Mistral is a fire and forget, short range surface-to-air missile designed to engage air threats. The Mistral has been designed to be launched from a wide range of systems such as MCP, ALBI, MANPADS, SIMBAD, ATLAS, SIGMA, SADRAL, TETRAL and ATAM. The Mistral missile is able to engage a supersonic target flying at 3,000 meters of altitude. The Mistral 1 is the baseline missile and the Mistral 2 is the improved, most recent, currently in production model. MBDA has produced more than 15,000 Mistral missiles for 25 countries. The Saudi Arabian National Guard ordered 68 (Multi-Purpose Combat Vehicle), based on a Mercedes Unimog 5000 chassis, air defense vehicles from French company Lohr. Very little information is avaiblable on this specific vehicle. A unit of four MPCVs can engage up to 16 different targets coming from any direction in less than 15 seconds.

Raytheon has a long-standing relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, beginning more than 45 years ago with their purchase and fielding of Hawk, Raytheons combat-proven, medium-range air defense system. Raytheons business partnership with the Kingdom laid the groundwork for Saudi being among the early partner-nations to purchase the combat-proven Patriot in 1990 to protect the Kingdom's critical assets. Raytheon has provided and supports many of Saudis defense systems, and has a significant presence in-country. Raytheons Saudi Arabian IAMD Programs provide services, training and hardware for the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces. Raytheon employs U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia on either accompanied or unaccompanied assignments, living and working in Jeddah. The work force includes Saudi nationals.

The HAWK missile system was purchased by the RSADF from the United States and has gone through several product improvement plans (PIPs). The improvements help the system in targeting and missile detection. There were improvements made in radar capability, both acquisition and detection, to the command and control interface, and missile warhead.

The Patriot missile is the RSADFs newest acquisition, first purchased in 1990. There was little doubt that Saudi Arabia needed a longer-range air defense missile than the Hawk then in its inventory. Saudi Arabia had recognized this need for some time, and by 1990 the regional threat led the US to deploy Patriot to protect American forces in the region. One particular value of Patriot is that it is the only system available that provides any defense against tactical ballistic missiles. Six fire units, the equivalent of one standard U.S. Patriot Battalion, was an extremely modest capability given the area that Saudi Arabia must defend. This helped close an urgent gap in Saudi Arabias defense capability.

The United States status as first in the value of arms transfer agreements with the Third World in 1992 is directly attributable to costly new orders from Saudi Arabiaand Kuwait. The Saudis bought 12 PATRIOT missile fire units and associated missiles, expensive military support services, and bombs and missiles for Saudi ?ghter aircraft; and Kuwait purchased 6 PATRIOT missile fire units and 6 HAWK missile batteries and associated missiles.

Finally, the Air Defense Operations Center underwent modifications that will allow it to integrate all air defense assets under one command and control system. There were some decisions by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States that have impacted the progress of the modifications. Completion of this effort wasachieved during 2003 when a final certification and acceptance test was conducted and successfully completed.

The RSADF had many weapon systems within its arsenal. However, age and technological improvements have required the RSADF to examine how to resource all of the requirements it sees as essential to the future. This provides a unique environment for security cooperation operations within USMTM. How this is accomplished will reflect the potential changes by the RSADF and therefore the requirement by USMTM, the U.S., and contractors to understand the changes that are occurring within the Kingdom and to plan and respond accordingly.

Some examples of how USMTM advisors can influence the direction of the RSADF can be shown through recent cultural, military, and support assistance efforts. After September 2001, the effects on the Saudi military reflect the perceived attitudes and action taken by the U.S. Cancellation of training and schooling in the United States was immediate and a self-protection mechanism for the SAAF. Breaking this mold was paramount for the advisors. The air defense advisors used several mechanisms that resulted in the thawing of relations and a return of confidence in the U.S. government.

The deployment and rotation of US Patriot Task Forces to the Kingdom every four months made the interface and exchange between the RSADF and U.S. Patriot forces difficult at best. The air defense advisors were in the Kingdom for one to two years. Understanding that relations within the Saudi culture are built over time allows the air defense advisors to be the conduit through which military-to-military exchanges occur in a more relaxed and routine manner, despite the ebb of constant change.

On June 21, 2011 Raytheon Company received a $1.7 billion Direct Commercial Sales contract to upgrade Saudi Arabia's Patriot Air and Missile Defense System to the latest Configuration-3. The award included ground-system hardware, a full training package and support equipment upgrades. "Raytheon is honored to provide the most technologically advanced air and missile defense system in the world to Saudi Arabia," said Tom Kennedy, president of Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). "We are pleased that, with this contract, they have shown further confidence in Raytheon and the superior air and missile defense capabilities of the Patriot system." The business partnership of Raytheon and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spans 45 years and a number of programs. Raytheon first supplied the combat-proven Patriot system to Saudi Arabia in the 1990s to protect the nation's critical assets. Subject to customary U.S. regulatory approvals, work under this contract will be performed by Raytheon at the Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, Mass. and in Saudi Arabia.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress 26 November 2012 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for technical services to recertify the functional shelf life of up to 300 PATRIOT Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) (MIM-104D) Guidance Enhanced Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $130 million. The Government of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of technical services to recertify the functional shelf life of up to 300 PATRIOT Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) (MIM-104D) Guidance Enhanced Missiles (GEM), modernization of existing equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, U.S. Government and contractor representatives logistics, engineering, and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The proposed recertification program will allow the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces to extend the shelf life of the PAC-2 missiles in its inventory for an additional twelve years.

By 2019, by one estimate 88 launchers of Patriot complexes covered the northern border of Saudi Arabia, 36 of them had the PAC-2 modification and another 52 had the latest PAC-3. Washington was also urging the kingdom to upgrade its 16 Patriot Advanced Capability-2 batteries, which had 96 missiles, to PAC-3 standard.

As of early 2012 discussions were under way for a THAAD sale to Saudi Arabia. On 05 March 2019 the Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin Corp nearly $1 billion on behalf of Saudi Arabia for the installation of the US military giant's THAAD missile system in the kingdom. The US Defense Department announced in a statement on Monday the $946 million is the first payment to Lockheed Martin toward the deployment of the $15-billion THAAD system in Saudi Arabia as part of a $110-billion arms package Washington signed with Riyadh in 2017. In November 2018, Riyadh signed a letter of offer and acceptance with Washington, paving the way for the massive sale of 44 THAAD launchers, missiles and related equipment.

The cruise missile attacks on an oil facilities the countrys east on 14 September 2019 raised questions about Riyadhs defenses. The American-made Patriot defence system used by Saudi Arabia to protect key installations wasnt designed to shoot down terrain-hugging cruise missiles. Imagery of the Abqaiq processing site, and nearby Khurais oil field, showed only the French Shahine missile system and a handful of anti aircraft guns. But none of these systems were designed to counter cruise missiles.

Michael Duitsman, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, noted that imagery from just a few days before the attack shows gun emplacements in the south west and south west corners of the facility standing empty. Duitsman noted "Even if the air defenses did respond, they were short-handed - the south-eastern and south-western gun emplacements were empty. And with old equipment defending a site well inside of Saudi Arabia, these probably weren't the RSADF's elite troops." Duitsman observed ".... that's definitely a Patriot battery to the east of Abqaiq. Looks like it was fairly empty on September 16, though."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said We want to make sure that infrastructure and resources are put in place such that attacks like this would be less successful than this one appears to have been.... This is an attack of a scale weve just not seen before. Seth Jones of the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggested in August 2019 that The vulnerability of Saudi Arabias ... critical infrastructure is probably impossible to entirely defend.... Saudi Arabia is so vulnerable that defensive measures, while they are important, will not ever solve the problem. Jones said the best approach is deterrence -- cnvincing Iran that it would pay an enormous cost for attacking Saudi oil facilities. Left unsaid was how to restore deterrence should deterrence fail.

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Page last modified: 19-09-2019 18:54:45 ZULU