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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.

The command of the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen announced in a statement 30/01/2017 that a Saudi frigate came under a terrorist attack by three suicide boats belonging to the Houthi militias while on patrol west of the port of Hodeida.

In its statement, the coalition said that the Saudi ship dealt with the boats as necessary. However, one of the boats collided with the rear of the vessel, resulting in the explosion of the boat and a fire at the rear of the ship. The crew extinguished the fire. Two members of the ship crew fell martyrs and three others were injured and they are in stable conditions.

The command added that the Saudi ship continued its patrol duties in the area of operations, while the air force and the coalition forces' ships continued to chase the fleeing boats to deal with them.

The command of the coalition asserted that the continuation of the Houthi militias' use of the port of Hodeida as a launching pad for terrorist operations was a serious development that would affect the international navigation and the flow of humanitarian and medical assistance into the port for Yemeni citizens.

On 31 January 2017 the Kingdom of Bahrain strongly condemned the terrorist attack that targeted a Saudi frigate while it was on a surveillance patrol west of the port of Hodeida, killing a number of the ship's crew and injuring others. The Kingdom of Bahrain expressed its heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the martyrs and wished speedy recovery to the wounded as a result of this criminal terrorist attack that reflects the Houthi militias rebels' ill intention to undermine all efforts that were aiming to reach a political settlement as well as their threat to free international navigation, and impediment of the access of the humanitarian assistances to the Yemeni citizens.

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.

By the early 1990s, without a doubt Saudi Arabia had the largest and most modern navy among the Gulf states. More-over, this force was a candidate for more growth and strengthening because of plans, either being made or being implemented, to upgrade its condition. The Saudi fleet in 1993 included 21 ships, consisting of four missile frigates, four missile picket ships (corvettes), nine missile attack launches, and three torpedo boats. In addition, there were five minesweepers.

The most important units were the four French-built F-2000 class frigates, known in the Saudi Navy as "al-Medinah." Riyadh obtained these vessels through the Sawari-1 agreement, which was signed with France in the early 1980's. These frigates were the best-armed and best-equipped of their kind in the Middle East. They were equipped with surface-to-surface Otomat antiship missiles and surface-to-air Crotale anti-aircraft missiles. Each frigate also carried a French-built Dauphin helicopter for anti-ship and anti-submarine operations. This helicopter was armed with air-to-surface AS-15 missiles.

Other Saudi naval units included four American-made Tacoma-class missile picket ships (corvettes), which were known in the Saudi Arabian Navy by the name "Badr." They were equipped with Harpoon antiship missiles. There were nine missile attack launches of the al-Saddiq class, which were armed with Harpoon missiles, and three German-made Jaguar-class torpedo boats, known in the Saudi Arabian Navy by the name of "al-Dammam."

Riyadh had also received from Britain the first of six Sandown minesweepers, which the Saudi fleet named "al-Jauf." Saudi Arabia was acquiring these ships under the Yamamah-2 agreement, which had been signed between the two countries. They would be operated alongside four American-built (al-Dar'iyah) class minesweepers, used by the Saudi Navy.

The important program that Saudi Arabia was planning to implement for its navy was Sawari-2, which was approved in principle with France in early 1993, preparatory to being ratified later in the year. It included acquiring three new missile frigates, which were of the French La Fayette class. Information that surfaced during early 1993 indicated that Riyadh was expressing increased interest in the possibility of acquiring two or more missile frigates of the Canadian Halifax class. These frigates were top-rated for anti-submarine duties. This indicated that the recent Saudi interest in acquiring these frigates was, apparently, a direct reaction to Iran's acquiring the Russian Kilo-class submarines.

In addition, Saudi planning had been ongoing for years concerning acquiring a submarine force, which would be composed of four to six units in a major program. Riyadh had decided not to begin implementation of this project. Several world classes of new submarines were in competition to win this program in preparation for the decision to be made with regard to supplying the Saudi Navy with its requirements during the second half of the 1990s, but this program remained on hold.

Saudi auxiliary holding are poorly characterized in the open literature. Anthony H. Cordesman and ?Khalid R. Al-Rodhan "Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric Wars" [2007] mentions "Auxiliary ships include three Radhwa-class ocean-going tugs, three Radhwa-class coastal tugs ... " while other sources do not mention these units. The fact of the existence of a number of "Radhwa" [the name of mountain in Medina] tugs is well attested - what was lacking is attestation of their association with the Saudi navy. Anthony H. Cordesman, "Saudi Arabia: National Security in a Troubled Region" [?Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC - 2009] reports "Three Radhwa-class tugs are not assigned to the Saudi Navy."

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Page last modified: 31-01-2020 19:15:32 ZULU