Royal Saudi Air Force Modernization
The Bush Administration argued in 1992 that the Royal Saudi Air Force had an exemplary record of using US military equipment for purely defensive purposes. Take, for example, two previous sales which were controversial at the aircraft and the AWACS (airborne warning and control system) system. The Saudi Air Force deployed these aircraft largely for the defense of the eastern province, site of the world's largest oil reserves. A test of their deterrent value occurred during the 8-year war between Iraq and Iran. In June 1984, an Iranian intruder aircraft headed toward the vital coastal oil installations was shot down by a Saudi F-15C fighter vectored to its target by a Saudicontrolled US AWACS.
A renewed position of influence for the US Air Force vis-a-vis the Saudis would go well beyond interoperability of communications or refueling systems, however. Through working together with US forces - from attending US schools and speaking the American language - the two mílitaries share a common doctrine and tactics. The two forces have also developed a mutual respect that has a synergistic effect on a combined ability to serve a common mission. That does not happen when the majority of aircraft, especially the most modern ones, are supplied by another country, and when Saudi pilots do not train in the United States.
On 3 October 2005, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Saudi Arabia of 165 Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) / Low VolumeTerminals (Fighter Data Link terminals), 25 Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) terminals as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $401 million. The Government of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS)/Low Volume Terminals (Fighter Data Link terminals), Joint TacticalInformation Distribution System (JTIDS) terminals, installation, testing, spare and repair parts, supportequipment, personnel training, training equipment, contractor engineering and technical support, and other related elements of program support. The MIDS terminals increase pilot operational effectiveness by providing an at-a-glance portrayal of targets, threats, and friendly forces on an easy-to-understand relative position display. This proposed system would increase combat effectiveness while reducing the threat of friendly fire. The system increased benefits of joint training exercises and foster interoperability with the US Air Force and other countries. Combined with AWACS and ground Command and Control, MIDS/JTIDS provided allied forces greater situational awareness in any coalition operation.
In January 2008, EADS North America announced that The Royal Saudi Air Force will acquire 3 of EADS A330 Multi-role Tanker/Transports (MRTTs). In July 2009 the Kingdom ordered a further three. The A330s will supplement, and eventually replace, the RSAF’s existing fleet of 8 KE-3As. The airbus Military A330 MRTT is derived from the best-selling A330 widebody twin-engine commercial airliner. The A330 MRTT has won several recent international competitions, being selected by the Royal Australian Air Force, U.K. Royal Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Force and the United Arab Emirates Air & Air Defence Force. The no. 1 Saudi Arabian aircraft was delivered in November 2009 to Madrid, Spain, where it will undergo its conversion process to the tanker configuration. This is the first of six A330 MRTTs being acquired for the Royal Saudi Air Force. By October 2011 News Royal Saudi Air Force crews had started flight training on their first A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) with Airbus Military instructors in Spain, which would allow them to qualify for air logistic transport and air-to-air refueling with pods and boom. Handover of the first A330 MRTT to the Royal Saudi Air Force took place mid-November 2011, with additional deliveries during 2012.
AH-64D Block II APACHE Longbow
On September 9, 2008 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Saudi Arabia of AH-64D APACHE Longbow Helicopters as well asassociated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $598 million. The Government of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of 12 AH-64D Block II APACHE Longbow Helicopters, 30 T700-GE-701D Engines, 12 Modernized Targeting Acquisition and Designation Systems/PilotNight Vision Sensors, 4 each AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars and AN/APR-48 Radar Frequency Interferometers, 28 M299 HELLFIRE Longbow Missile Launchers, 12 AN/ALQ-144C(V)3 Infrared Jammers, 12 AN/APR-39A(V)4 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, 12 AN/ALQ-136(V)5 Radar Jammers, 12 AAR-57(V)3/5Common Missile Warning Systems, 36 Improved Countermeasures Dispensers, and 12 AN/AVR-2B Laser Warning Sets. Also included: composite horizontal stabilators, Integrated Helmet and Display Sight Systems, repair and return, transportation, depot maintenance, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor technical support, and other related elements of program support.
Saudi Arabia would use the AH-64D for its national security, and protecting its borders and oil infrastructure. The aircraft provide the Saudi military more advanced targeting and engagement capabilities. The sale would provide for the defense of vital installations and provide close air support for the Saudi military ground forces. This sale also would increase the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) APACHE sustainability and interoperability with the U.S. Air Force, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and other coalition air forces.
Tactical Airborne Surveillance System (TASS)
On August 5, 2009 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible foreign military sale to the Government of Saudi Arabia of Tactical Airborne Surveillance System (TASS) aircraft upgrades for an estimated cost of $530 million. The Government of Saudi Arabia requested services to upgrade the TASS aircraft, installation of 10 AN/ARC-230 High Frequency Secure Voice/Data Systems, 25 AN/ARC-231 or 25 AN/ARC-210 Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency (VHF/UHF) Secure Voice/Data Systems, four Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVT), four LN-100GT Inertial Reference Units, 25 SY-100 or functional equivalent Crypto Systems, seven SG-250 or functional equivalent Crypto Systems, six SG-50 or functional equivalent, 10 CYZ-10 Fill Devices, modification of existing ground stations, TASS equipment trainer, mission scenario generator (simulator), and maintenance test equipment; spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation including flight/operator/maintenance manuals, modification/construction of facilities, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and support services and other related elements of logistics support. The upgrade would enable the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) to sustain their current capability, maintain interoperability with USAF and other coalition forces, and provide flexibility options for future growth. The upgrade will enhance the RSAF’s ability to use a common architecture for efficiently communicating the gathered electronic data, within the RSAF and with other regional coalition forces.
E-3 Air Traffic Management
On August 6, 2009 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible foreign military sale to the Government of Saudi Arabia of Communication Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management upgrades for an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. The Government of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of a two-phased approach for the Communication Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management upgrades of the communication and navigation systems for the Royal Saudi Air Force’s fleet of 13 RE-3, KE-3, and E-3 aircraft. Phase One would include Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems, 8.33 kHz Very High Frequency radios, Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems, Mode S Transponders, Mode 4/5 Identification Friend or Foe Encryption, High Frequency radio replacements, Multifunctional Information Display Systems for Link 16 operations, Have Quick II radios, Satellite Communications and Common Secure Voice encryptions. Phase 2 would include digital flight deck instrumentation and displays, flight director system/autopilot, flight management system, cockpit data line message and combat situational awareness information. Also included are spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publication and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, personnel support and test equipment to include flight simulators, U.S. government and contractor engineering support, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support.
The proposed upgrade would enable the Royal Saudi Air Force to sustain its current capability, maintain interoperability with the USAF and other coalition forces, and provide flexibility options for future growth. The upgrade would enhance the RSAF’s ability to use a common architecture for efficiently communicating the gathered electronic data within the RSAF and with other regional coalition forces. Saudi Arabia would have no difficulty absorbing these additional capabilities. A U.S. prime contractor would be chosen after a competitive source selection. There are no known offset agreements in connection with this proposed sale.
Pilatus PC-21 aircrew training
Following agreement between the Governments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, under the Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme, on 23 May 2012 BAE was awarded a contract for £1.6bn (equivalent) to support the future aircrew training requirements of the Royal Saudi Air Force. Included within this requirement is the supply of 55 Pilatus PC-21 aircraft to fulfil the basic training role and 22 BAE Systems Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft, which would be used to fulfil the fast jet training part of the syllabus.The contract, aimed at meeting the growing demands of a world class Air Force, covers the provision of equipment and training devices such as aircraft simulators, training aids and aircraft on which to train aircrew.
Airlift and aerial refueling support
On August 6, 2012 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of apossible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for follow-on support and services for the Royal Saudi Air Force at an estimated cost of $850 million. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of follow-on support and services for the Royal Saudi Air Force aircraft, engines and weapons; publications and technical documentation; airlift and aerial refueling; support equipment; spare and repair parts; repair and return; personnel training and training equipment; US Government and contractor technical and logistics support services; and other related elementsof logistical and program support.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress 09 August 2012 of of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for ten Link-16 capable data link systems and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) suites and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support at an estimated cost of $257 million. The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) requested a possible sale of ten Link-16 capable data link systems and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) suites for four KSA-provided King Air 350ER aircraft and associated ground support, with an option to procure, via a Foreign Military Sales, an additional four King Air 350ER aircraft with enhanced PT6A-67A engines and spare parts equipped with the same ISR suites. The ISR suites include a Com-Nav Surveillance/Air Traffic Management cockpit, RF-7800M- MP High Frequency Radios with encryption, AN/ARC-210 Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency/Satellite Communication Transceiver Radios with Have Quick II and encryption, a High Speed Data Link, an AN/APX-114/119 Identification Friend or Foe Transponder, Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigations Systems (GPS/INS) with a Selective Availability Anti-spoofing Module (SAASM), AN/AAR-60 Infrared Missile Warning and AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures System, Electro-Optical Sensor, SIGINT System, Synthetic Aperture Radar. Also included are Ground Stations, Training Aids, C4I Integration, aircraft modifications, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, aircraft ferry, U.S. Government and contractor technical, engineering, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.
The RSAF needs additional ISR capability to provide persistent, real-time route surveillance, facility, infrastructure and border security, counter-terrorism and smuggling interdiction, support for naval and coastal operations, internal defense and search and rescue operations. The King AIR 350ER-ISR aircraft would allow the RSAF to perform a portion of the RE-3 mission. All systems would be compatible with and would continue to supplement the capabilities of the RSAF RE-3 aircraft. The KSA would have no difficulties absorbing and using these King Air ISR aircraft.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress 08 November 2012 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 20 C-130J-30 Aircraft and 5 KC-130J Air Refueling Aircraft, as well as associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $6.7 billion. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has requested a possible sale of 20 C-130J-30 Aircraft, 5 KC-130J Air Refueling Aircraft, 120 Rolls Royce AE2100D3 Engines (100 installed and 20 spares), 25 Link-16 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems, support equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related logistics support. Saudi Arabia needs these aircraft to sustain its aging fleet, which faces increasing obsolescence. The proposed sale of C-130J and KC-130J aircraft would provide a modern configuration, improve reliability and enhance the Royal Saudi Air Force’s ability to effectively field, support, and employ these aircraft.
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah paid an official visit to France 13-15 April 2005, his first since 2001. French press speculated on potential breakthroughs on a number of major contracts with a combined value between 10 to 20 million euros, including the long-discussed, estimated 7 billion USD "Miksa" electronic border monitoring project pursued by Thales for over 10 years; a proposed purchase of 48 French Rafales fighter aircraft from Dassault; or an order for 20 Airbuses from Saudia Airlines. Amid widespread French media focus on the potential commercial windfall of the Crown Prince's visit, the focus of the visit was essentially political in nature and that no major contracts had been concluded. An April 15 report in the French economic daily "Les Echos" claiming that a protocol had been signed to purchase, before the end of 2005, some 48 Rafales with an option to purchase up to 48 more, was later denied by Dassault.
President Chirac completed his fourth official visit to Saudi Arabia 4-6 March 2006. French press coverage of the Chirac visit focused on the French president's personal rapport with King Abdullah and the lack of commercial contracts concluded. French media had previewed the trip as a last chance for the GoF to conclude long-stalled security and defense contracts, including a sale of some 48 Rafale planes dating back to the 1980's, and the 7 billion euro "Miksa" border surveillance project, long sought by Thales.
Crown Prince Sultan, who was also the Saudi Minister of Defense and Aviation, reportedly signed two defense agreements with France during his 20 July 2006 visit to Paris. The agreements signed in Paris establish several "phases" for Saudi-French defense cooperation. The first phase apparently covers the purchase of tankers and helicopters, with subsequent phases to possibly include tanks, ships, and the Rafale fighter aircraft.
FC-1 Xiaolong / JF-17 Thunder
Saudi Arabia is considering cooperation with China and Pakistan in the development and production of the FC-1 Xiaolong multirole fighter jet, also known as the JF-17 Thunder, according to a January 2014 report by Military Parade, a website covering defense issues based in Russia. General Raheel Sharif, the chief of staff of Pakistan's armed forces, ordered a JF-17 aerial maneuver display to welcome a military delegation from Saudi Arabia led by the country's deputy defense minister Prince Salman bin Sultan on Jan. 20, the site reported. The website's source said the representatives from the Royal Saudi Air Force have been eager to learn the details of the production of the JF-17 in Pakistan since 2013.
On November 12, 2015, His Highness, Prince Turki bin Saud Mohammed A. Al-Saud, President of KACST (King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), visited ANTONOV Company’s exposition at Dubai Air Show. In the presence of His Highness, ANTONOV Company and Taqnia Aeronautics company signed two Memorandums of Understanding as for interaction on promotion of four AN-148-100EM medical aircraft, four ISR (intelligence search and rescue) and two Jamming versions of the AN-132 into the market of the KSA.
Retired Major General Ali Mohammed Al-Ghamdi, Chief Executive Officer of Taqnia Aeronautics company, said: “Signing of these Memorandums means the next step in our cooperation with ANTONOV. We see the demand for aircraft of AN-132, AN-148-100EM and AN-178 types in the KSA. These airplanes can be efficiently used in our country and also to be assembled and manufactured for the number of customers. Promotion of new versions of the AN-132 will assist us in study of the potential customers’ requirements to ISR and Jamming aircraft. So, we would develop the new airplanes in strict accordance with their needs. Also we are starting work with ANTONOV Company on the composite and metallic materials to develop technical cooperation."
An-178 transport aircraft
Saudi Arabia signed a letter of intent in December 2015 with the Ukrainian Antonov company, pertaining acquisition of 30 An-178 transport aircraft. The document also provided for an option of initiating a license manufacturing process. This was yet another Saudi initiative regarding collaboration with the Ukrainian aviation industry and promotion of the Antonov’s aircraft in the Middle East.
The letter of intent, concluded by and between Antonov and the Saudi Taqnia Aeronautics company, was related to the process of manufacturing 30 An-178 aircraft for the Royal Saudi Air Force. The letter also mentions possible provision of a manufacturing/assembly license, referring to the local markets. This was yet another industrial initiative related to the investments made by the Saudi companies, pertaining the cooperation with the Antonov company, looking for new customers.
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