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Royal Saudi Land Forces Modernization - Armor

The Reagan Administrations decided in 1989 to sell 315 M1A2 main battle tanks and associated equipment to Saudi Arabia. The Administration advised the Congress informally of its plans to proceed with this sale on October llth. The formal notification was delivered on November 2. The decision to notify was made only after a lengthy assessment of the impact of this sale on U.S. interests in the Middle East and the security situation there. As a result of our assessment, we have concluded that Saudi Arabia has a legitimate need for this equipment; the sale would not have a negative impact on regional stability; it will not pose a risk to Israels security; and it would serve a number of important U.S. interests.

The total value of this sale was approximately $3.1 billion of which about $1.15 billion would go toward the purchase of the 315 tanks. The remainder would go for various types of support vehicles-recovery vehicles, tank transporters, support trucks, spare parts, construction, and other support services. The conguration of the tank provided to the Saudis was somewhat different from the model that the US Army used. The US planned to deliver these tanks to the Saudis during the period June 1993 through April 1996. The Saudis began receiving their tanks about one year after the Army begins receiving its MlA2s. This delivery schedule did not adversely affect deliveries to the U.S. Army.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified transmittal number 90-07 to Congress on 02 December 1989 of the possible sale of 315 M1A2A Abrams tanks, with ancillary weapons and equipment, 30 M88A1 recovery vehicles, 175 M998 utility trucks, other trucks, ammunition, and full logistics support for an estimated value of $725 million. Transmittal number 90-78 was notified to Congress on 27 October 1990 for the possible sale of 150 M1A2 tanks, 200 Bradley Fighting Vehicle Family Systems (including TOW versions and 1,750 TOW IIA Missiles), 207 M113 Armored Personnel Carrier Family Vehicles, 50 M548 Cargo Carriers, 17M88A1 and 43 M578 Recovery Vehicles, ammunition, and full logistics support for an estimated value of $3.2 billion.

Some Saudis advocated the purchase of the French Le Clerc, and the Le Clerc completed extensive trials in Saudi Arabia in August 1995, to fill the gaps left by the retirement of the AMX-30. These trials were successful enough for the Saudi Army to consider replacing its AMX-30 tanks with the Le Clerc, and Saudi Arabia called for further tests. A specially modified version of the Le Clerc underwent field tests in late July 1997 as part of competitive trials between the Le Clerc, the M-1A2, and the British Desert Challenger for a $3 billion contract with the Royal Saudi Land Forces. By 1998 the Kingdom had plans to buy 235-350 additional M-1A2s, Challenger 2s, or Le Clercs by 2000, but funding plans were unclear.

In March 2006, Jane's Defence Weekly reported that Saudi Arabia was planning to evaluate the Al-Khalid MBT-2000 (Type 2000) main battle tank in April 2006. The Saudi desert trials come almost two years after the Royal Saudi Army expressed interest in purchasing a batch of the newly developed Al Khalid. A 40 member delegation of Saudi defense officials visiting Pakistan showed interest HIT made productions at the IDEAS 2004 trade show. Pakistani defense officials said the Saudi government may be interested in purchasing up to 150 Al-Khalid for $600 million USD. The Al-Khalid MBT-2000 is a joint venture between China, Pakistan and Ukraine. Contrary to some reports, the Al-Khalid MBT-2000 (Type 2000) main battle tank is not a joint production of Pakistan, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia.

On 28 July 2006 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Saudi Arabia of M1A1 and upgrade of M1A2 to M1A2S Abrams tanks as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options were exercised, could be as high as $2.9 billion. The Government of Saudi Arabia has requested a possible sale and reconfiguration for 58 M1A1 Abrams tanks, which, together with 315 M1A2 Abrams tanks already in Saudi Arabias inventory, would be modified and upgraded to the M1A2S (Saudi) Abrams configuration, kits, spare and repair parts, communications and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, contractor engineering and technical support services and other related elements of logistics support.

This proposed sale consisted of three phases: (1) engineering phase for 30 months, (2) purchase of and upgrade of 58 M1A1s to M1A2S (Saudi) configuration, and (3) tear down of the 315 M1A2 Abrams in Saudi Arabias tank fleet and upgrade to the M1A2S configuration. The Abrams Integrated Management(AIM) program was designed economically to rebuild and maintain the M1A1 Main Battle Tank (MBT) to a like new condition to improve fleet readiness and reduce sustainment costs. The 58 M1A1s would undergo an AIM-like process and will be upgraded to the M1A2S configuration in the United States. The 315 Saudi M1A2A MBTs would undergo an AIM-like process and would be re-configured to the M1A2S configuration. Vehicle tear down and final re-assembly would be accomplished in Saudi Arabia. The proposed sale and upgrade would allow Saudi Arabia to operate and exercise a more lethal andsurvivable M1A2S tank for the protection of critical infrastructure. This proposed sale/upgrade kept asubstantial number of tanks in the region that have a high degree of commonality with the US tank fleet. The M1A2S design is intended to take advantage of the digital capabilities of the M1A2 while limiting obsolescence challenges.

The first reports on a possible sale of hundreds of state-of-art German Leopard 2A7+ tanks surfaced in July 2011. At the beginning of the month the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the Saudis would buy 200 Leopard 2A7 MBTs. Such a transaction would be historic, as Germany was the only Western European country that had never sold arms to the Kingdom. The federal security council approved the sale in early July 2011, but the German-Saudi contract for purchase of some 200-300 brand new modern tanks remained on the table. The Economy Ministry advocated the deal, which would give a boost to domestic defense producers Krauss-Maffei Wegman and Rheinmetall, especially as the demand for armor from the German army shrinks with its ongoing restructuring.

But Germany was reluctant to sell heavy arms to the Gulf state. The news caused criticism by rights groups and opposition politicians in Germany, who were discontent that German arms would be supplied to a country with poor human rights record. They said Saudi Arabia might use the tanks, which are tailored for desert and urban warfare, to quash domestic dissent. When mass protests erupted in Bahrain in 2011, Saudi Arabia sent its troops to help local security forces in a crackdown on the Bahraini Shi'ite opposition.

Bild newspaper reported in June 2012 that Saudi Arabia wanted to buy between 600 and 800 Leopard II main battle tanks from Germany, at least twice more than what was previously reported. The future deal is estimated to worth around 10 billion euros. The Spanish firm General Dynamic/Santa Barbara would produce the tanks under a license, if the deal was finally given the green light. There was still resistance in the German federal government to selling military hardware to Saudis. Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry both oppose it due to security and human rights considerations. The initial contract for 300 tanks was ready for signing, but still required consent from a council of eight German ministers and the Federal Chancellor, who has to approve any export of military technology from the country.

The US State Department made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for M1A2S Saudi Abrams Main Battle Tanks and M88Al/A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift Evacuation System (HERCULES) Armored Recovery Vehicles (ARV), equipment, training, and support. The estimated cost is $1.15 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on August 8, 2016. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of up to one hundred fifty-three (153) M1Al/A2 Tank structures for conversion to one hundred thirty-three (133) M1A2S Saudi Abrams configured Main Battle Tanks and twenty (20) battle damage replacements for their existing fleet. The total estimated value is $1.15 billion.

Russia has been trying to sell Saudi Arabia at least 150 of its T-90 tanks and in 2006 the Saudi army carried out desert trials on the tanks to test their capability under the scorching desert conditions in the Kingdom. In Saudi Arabia, according to Igor Karavayev, Director of the Ministry of Industry and Trades (Minpromtorg) Defense-Industrial Complex Development Department, the T-90A was the only tank to destroy more than 60 percent of its targets after a road march. Karavayev continued: The tests conducted in Saudi Arabia as part of an open tender fully and completely contradict the Glavkoms [Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikovs] assertions [that Russian arms arent up to snuff]. This T-90 modification supposedly had a new turret, a 1,000-hp engine, an improved thermal sight, new active defense measures, and a number of other improvements. This T-90 modification supposedly has a new turret, a 1,000-hp engine, an improved thermal sight, new active defense measures, and a number of other improvements.

In 2007-2008 there were reports that Saudi Arabia was buying 150 Russian T-90 tanks. There were reports that Saudi Arabia had placed a $2bn order for helicopters and 150 T-90S MBTs in September 2009, but this was only a "preliminary agreement". As of January 2010 Saudi Arabia and Russia were negotiating the upcoming purchase of Russian armored vehicles, air defense systems and helicopters. It was earlier reported that Russia and Saudi Arabia were preparing a package of MTC agreements worth US$ 4-6 billion. Russia had been "negotiating" a $6 bln-arms deal with Saudi Arabia since 2007. The arms package reportedly included 150 T-90S main battle tanks, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, Mi-35 (Hind) attack helicopters, and Mi-17 (Hip) multirole helicopters, as well as Pansir-S1 air defense systems. Several media sources also mentioned that Russia could sell advanced S-300 or even S-400 air defense missile systems to Saudi Arabia. Potential arms sales to Saudi Arabia would be a major breakthrough for Russia, as the Saudi arms market has been dominated by the United States and Britain since the Soviet era.

With Russia and Saudi Arabia deploying proxies on opposing sides in Syria, and with Russia emerging as Iran's sponsor, these deals seem improbable.

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Page last modified: 20-02-2017 11:22:22 ZULU