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PEACE SENTINEL involved the purchase of E-3 AWACS and supporting tanker aircraft. Because ground-based radar could not provide adequate advanced warning of attacks on sensitive targets along the Persian Gulf, particularly from nearby Iranian air bases, Saudi Arabia ordered five E-3A AWACS aircraft in 1981. In recognition of the need for enhanced low altitude detection over a wide variety of terrain types and threat axes, the PEACE SENTINEL program provided for the purchase of five E-3A model aircraft modified to provide detection of both airborne and maritime targets.

Peace Sentinel was part of the largest single foreign military sale up to that time. It was designed to complement two other FMS programs also developed to modernize Saudi air defense capabilities: Peace Sun and Peace Shield. Peace Sun dealt with F-15 fighter enhancements to include 1,177 AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and 101 sets of conformal fuel tanks for the Saudi F-15 fleet. Peace Shield, more closely tiedto AWACS operations, is designed to be *a network of commandcenters, ground radars, and communications sites strategically placed throughout Saudi Arabia.

Although not equipped with the highly advanced secure Joint Tactical Information Data System (JTIDS) data link found on US and NATO E-3s, the Saudi E-3 is able to provide its air picture via data link to the ground command and control system and elements of the Royal Saudi Navy. To extend the on-station availability of the AWACS, eight Boeing 707 aircraft - designated as KE-3A - were modified to act as aerial tankers. Also included in the program were three years of contractor maintenance, aircrew and maintenance training and the initial provisioning of spares. Total program cost was approximately $2.8 billion.

President Carter fielded the sale request from the Saudis just prior to the November 1980 election and was generally in favor of the sale himself. The Saudi request provoked an intensed debate in the US involving national security concerns of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States. The protracted debate between the President andthe Congress over the Saudi request to purchase five Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft should have rationally decided the issue, but it quickly turned into an emotional battle as special interest groups fought to either block or promote the sale. The US Congress challenged President Reagan on his belief that the proposed sale was in the national interest. The President was the victor.

The AWACS sale, as important to security assistance as it seemed to some at the time, became mired in controversy from its initial proposal in 1981 through delivery of the first aircraft in 1986. President Reagan, in his first ten months in office, launched an intensive campaign to push this sale through both houses of Congress, especially the Senate. Special interest groups lobbied hard against the sale while others supported the President. In fact, the lobbying efforts for and against the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia were among the most intense ever experienced by Congress up until that time.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was born in the mid-1950s, its goal being to insure the United States' continuing support of Israel. The AWACS controversy, with Thomas A. Dine newly heading AIPAC, advanced AIPAC to the forefront of American politics. The American Jewish community and its lobbying arm, AIPAC, took on the President of the United States, and the result was the end of AIPAC's national obscurity and the beginning of a revolution in Jewish politics. The AWACS battle is a striking example of th state of the art of Jewish political power, a self-contained picture of what Tom Dine liked to call "Jewish muscle on the job."

To allay Israel's concerns, the aircraft were equipped specifically for the defensive needs of the Persian Gulf and Red Sea areas only. Congress required that the United States have substantial control over the use of the airplanes and sharing the AWACS data. By letter dated October 28, 1981, President Reagan assured then­Senate Majority Leader Baker that the proposed transfer to Saudi Arabia of AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft would not occur until the President had certified to the Congress that specified conditions had been met. Subse - quently, Section 131 of the International ÍSecurity and Development Cooperation Act of 1985 (ISDCA) [P.L. 99-83, August 1985] incorporated the text of that letter, with its conditions for certification, into legislation. In accordance with Section 131, of the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985, P.L. 99-83, President Reagan certified on 18 June 1986 that these conditions had been met, specifically:

  • That a detailed plan for the security of equipment, technology, information, and support ing documentation has been agreed to by the United States and Saudi Arabia and is in place; and
  • The security provisions for Saudi AWACS aircraft are no less stringent than measures employed by the United States for protection and control of its equipment of like kind outside the continental United states; and
  • The United States has the right of continual on-site inspection and surveillance by U.S. personnel of security arrangements for all operations during the useful life of the AWACS. It is _further provided that security arrangements will be supplemented by additional U.S. personnel if it is deemed necessary by the two parties; and
  • Saudi Arabia will not permit citizens of third nations either to perform maintenance on the AWACS or to modify any such equipment without prior, explicit mutual consent of the two governments; and
  • Computer software, as designated by the United States Government, will remain the property of the United States Government.
  • That Saudi Arabia has agreed to share with the United States continuously and completely the information that it acquires from use of the AWACS.
  • That Saudi Arabia has agreed not to share access to AWACS equipment, technology, documentation, or any information developed from such equipment or technology with any nation other than the United States without the prior, explicit mutual consent of both governments; and
  • There are in place adequate and effective procedures requiring the screening and security clearances of citizens of Saudi Arabia and only cleared Saudi citizens and cleared U.S. nationals will have access to AWACS equipment, technology, or documentation, or information derived therefrom, without the prior, explicit mutual consent of the two governments.
  • That the Saudi AWACS will be operated solely within the boundaries of Saudi Arabia, except with the prior, explicit mutual consent of the two governments, and solely for defensive purposes as defined by the United States, in order to maintain security and regional stability.
All five E-3 and eight KE-3 aircraft were deliveredto the Kingdom without major schedule delays during 1986 and 1987. The first aircraft reached operational status in 1987 in time to assist United States naval operations in the tanker war in the Persian Gulf. Training and support services were provided by the Boeing Corporation and a United States Air Force team.

On December 7, 2007 – The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Saudi Arabia of mission equipment for AWACS aircraft as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $400 million. The Government of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of five sets of Airborne Early Warning (AEW) and Command, Control and Communications (C3) mission equipment/Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) Group B kits for subsequent installation and checkout in five E-3 Airborne Warning and ControlSystems (AWACS). In addition, this proposed sale would include spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, contractor engineering and technical support, and other relatedelements of program support. The proposed sale will enhance training opportunities; increase the Royal Saudi Air Force’s (RSAF) AWACS operational capability, sustainability, and interoperability with the USAF, Gulf Cooperation Council, and other coalition air forces. Saudi Arabia needs this additional mission equipment to continue its development of an extended Airborne Early Warning (AEW) capability, as well as enhanced command, control andcommunications (C3).

In 2010 the Airborne Early Warning and Control International Branch of the Electronic Systems Center awarded a $73 million contract to Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle to enhance and improve capabilities for the Royal Saudi Air Force's fleet of E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft. This foreign military sales contract is for the Radar System Improvement Program, which is a battle-proven operational capability. The contract moves into Phase II-A -- the production phase. The RSIP provides increased operational flexibility, enhanced radar performance and improved abilities to respond to electronic attacks. The improvements also increase radar system reliability and sustainability.

Phase I was awarded in May 2009 and included design and planning. It runs through November 2010. Running through January 2014, Phase II-A included the RSIP kit production, technical publications, installation and check-out training development and conduct, spares and spares provisioning analysis, and test planning. The RSIP kit will include a new radar computer, a radar-control maintenance panel and software upgrades for the radar and mission-system programs. The RSIP was the first major improvement to the AWACS radar system since the aircraft was fielded in the 1970s and the U.S./NATO development effort for it was completed in the 1990s.

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Page last modified: 05-01-2013 19:26:41 ZULU