Royal Saudi Air Force

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Royal Saudi Air Force
القوات الجوية الملكية السعودية
Royal Saudi Air Force embelm.svg
Royal Saudi Air Force emblem
Founded 1920s–present
Country Saudi Arabia
Allegiance Saudi Arabia
Branch Air Force
Type Military Aviation
Role Aerial warfare
Size 522 aircraft[1]
Part of Saudi Arabian Armed Forces
Nickname RSAF
Engagements The Tanker War
Persian Gulf War
Desert Shield
Battle of Khafji
Desert Storm
Intervention against ISIL
Shia insurgency in Yemen[2]
Chief of Air Staff Lt. General Mohammed bin Ahmed Alshaa'lan.
Sultan bin Salman
Roundel Roundel of the Royal Saudi Air Force.svg Roundel of the Royal Saudi Air Force-Low Visibility.svg
Flag of the Royal Saudi Air Force1.png
Flag of the Royal Saudi Air Force2.png
Aircraft flown
Attack Eurofighter Typhoon
Panavia Tornado IDS
Bomber Boeing F-15S
Panavia Tornado IDS
Boeing RE-3A
Boeing E-3A
Fighter Eurofighter Typhoon
Boeing F-15C/S
Interceptor Eurofighter Typhoon
Boeing F-15C/S
Reconnaissance Northrop RF-5E
Panavia Tornado IDS
Trainer Pilatus PC-9A
BAe Hawk
Transport Lockheed C-130

The Royal Saudi Air Force (Arabic: القوات الجوية الملكية السعودية‎, al-quwwāt al-ğawwiyyah al-malakiyyah as-suʿūdiyyah), is the aviation branch of the Saudi Arabian armed forces. The RSAF has developed from a largely defensive military force into one with an advanced offensive capability. The RSAF maintains the third largest fleet of F-15s after the USAF and the JASDF.

The backbone of the RSAF is currently the Boeing F-15 Eagle, with the Panavia Tornado also forming a major component. The Tornado and many other aircraft were delivered under the Al Yamamah contracts with British Aerospace (now BAE Systems). The RSAF ordered various weapons in the 1990s, including Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles, laser-guided bombs and gravity bombs. Al-Salam, a successor to the Al Yamamah agreement will see 72 Eurofighter Typhoons delivered by BAE.


The RSAF was formed in the mid-1920s with British assistance. It was re-organized in 1950 and began to receive American assistance from 1952 including the use of Dhahran Airfield by the United States Air Force.

The Saudi forces are equipped with mainly western hardware. Main suppliers are companies in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Both the UK and the US are involved in training programs conducted in Saudi Arabia.

Derelict RSAF T-28A Trojan, one of four acquired in the 1950s, at King Abdulaziz University
RSAF Roundel on the side of a Lightning Aircraft

During the 1980s and 1990s, by Middle Eastern standards the armed forces of Saudi Arabia were relatively small. Its strength however was derived from advanced technology. The backbone of the fighter force is formed by 134 Panavia Tornados from which a batch of 48 Tornado IDS were ordered in 1993 under the al-Yamamah II program and 72 F-15S aircraft delivered from the mid-1990s that operate beside the more than 120 F-15C/D aircraft delivered starting in 1981. Aircraft training is executed on the Pilatus PC-9, BAe Hawk, Boeing F-15D Eagle and the Northrop F-5F Tiger II. The C-130 Hercules is the mainstay of the transport fleet and the Hercules is assisted by CASA CN-235s. Reconnaissance is performed by 17 Squadron with its RF-5E and the Boeing E-3A is the Airborne Early Warning platform operated by 18 Squadron.

The VIP support fleet consists of a wide variety of civil registered aircraft such as the Boeing 707, 737 and 747, Lockheed Tri-Stars, MD11s and G1159A as well as Lockheed L-100-30. The HZ- prefix used in the civilian registrations of these aircraft derived from the former name of the territory (Hejaz)

Recent purchases[edit]

The Al Yamamah contract was controversial because of the alleged bribes associated with its award. Nonetheless, the RSAF announced its intention to purchase the Eurofighter Typhoon from BAE Systems in December 2005. On 18 August 2006 a memorandum of understanding was signed for 72 aircraft in a GB£6-10 billion deal.[3]

Following this order, the investigation of the Al Yamamah contract was suppressed by the British Prime minister Tony Blair in December 2006, citing "strategic interests" of the UK. On the 17 September 2007 Saudi Arabia announced it had signed a £4.4bn deal with BAE Systems for 72 Eurofighter Typhoons.[4]

On 29 December 2011, the United States signed a $29.4 billion deal to sell 84 F-15s in the SA (Saudi Advanced) configuration. The sale includes upgrades for the older F-15s up to the SA standard and related equipment and services.[5]

On 23 May 2012, British defence firm BAE Systems is to sell 22 BAE Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft to the Royal Saudi Air Force for a total of £1.9 billion ($3 billion). The deal also includes simulators, ground and training equipment and spares.[6]

On April 2013, British defence firm BAE Systems delivers the first two new Typhoon Eurofighters of 24 to Saudi Arabia.

In 2013, the USAF tendered for security services to protect the Saudi air force from Cyberwarfare.[7]



The RSAF units are divided into Wings that are dispersed across the seven air bases:

Units of the RSAF[edit]

RSAF F-15C Eagle about to refuel from a KC-135 over the Persian Gulf
RSAF Boeing E-3A Sentry
RSAF Lockheed C-130H Hercules
  • 1 Squadron (Royal Flight/BBJ&HS125)
  • 2 Squadron (F-15)
  • 3 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoons)
  • 4 Squadron (C-130)
  • 5 Squadron (F-15)
  • 6 Squadron (F-15)
  • 7 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 8 Squadron (The Mushshak)
  • 9 Squadron (PC-9)
  • 10 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoon)
  • 11 Squadron (Royal Flight/G-IV&CE550)
  • 12 Squadron (Bell 212)
  • 13 Squadron (F-15)
  • 14 Squadron (Helicopters)
  • 15 Squadron (F-5B possibly transitioning to Eurofighter Typhoons)
  • 16 Squadron (C-130)
  • 18 Squadron (E-3/KE-3A)
  • 19 Squadron (RE-3A)
  • 21 Squadron (Hawk)
  • 22 Squadron (PC-9)
  • 27 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoons)
  • 29 Squadron (Tornado ADV to be replaced with Eurofighter Typhoons)
  • 30 Squadron (Helicopters)
  • 32 Squadron (KC-130H)
  • 33 Squadron (Royal Medical Flight)
  • 34 Squadron (F-15)
  • 35 Squadron (Jetstream)
  • 37 Squadron (F-15)
  • 44 Squadron (Bell 412)
  • 55 Squadron (F-15)
  • 75 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 77 Squadron (F-15)
  • 79 Squadron (Hawk)
  • 83 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 88 Squadron (Hawk)
  • 92 Squadron (F-15)
  • 99 Squadron (Cougar)

Current aircraft inventory[edit]

On 11 August 2011, The Saudi Royal Air Force received 48 Typhoons from British Royal Air Force (Taif Airbase). On 12 August 2009, UPI reported that Saudi Arabia was seeking upgrades for their E-3 fleet and aerial refuelling tanker aircraft.[8]

In October 2010, an interest for a 60 billion USD defense procurement package from the US was unveiled. It consisted of $29.4 billion for 84 F-15SA fighters, upgrade of the existing F-15S to the same standard, parts and munitions as well as another 30 billion for 72 UH-60M, 36 AH-6I, 36 AH-64D, 12 MD530 helicopters and parts. The helicopter request is for the Saudi Arabian Army.[9]

Aircraft Photo Origin Role Version Quantity Note
Fighter Aircraft
F-15E Strike Eagle F-15E - Controlling The Sky.JPG  United States Strike fighter SA
67 S variant to be upgraded to SA standard,1 lost in March 2015 during Operation Decisive Storm[10][11]
Boeing F-15C Eagle F-15, 71st Fighter Squadron, in flight.JPG  United States Fighter C
1 F-15C lost on 2 December 2012.[12]
Eurofighter Typhoon Saudi Arabia - Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon.jpg  United Kingdom Multirole fighter T.2
72 on order, all will be manufactured by BAE Warton facility, instead of planned final assembly line in Saudi Arabia.[13] A further 72 may be up.[14]
Panavia Tornado IDS Tornado ECR JaBoG 32 1997.JPEG  United Kingdom Ground Attack 80 Being upgraded at a cost of $4.66 billion.
Trainer Aircraft
BAe Hawk Bae hawk t1 xx245 inflight arp.jpg  United Kingdom Advanced Trainer Mk. 65
Mk. 65A
29 22 Hawk AJT on order, delivery planned in 2016.
BAe Jetstream British Aerospace Jetstream 32 reg. N487UE.jpg  United Kingdom Trainer 31 1 2 delivered, S/n 2102 crashed near Dhahran 14 October 1989, killing all 5 on board[15]
Raytheon King Air 350 Beech b300 kingair 350 m-five arp.jpg  United States Special Mission / Electronic Warfare 6 3 on order
Super Mushshaaq A Mushak at IDEAS 2008.jpg  Pakistan Trainer - 20
Pilatus PC-9 Pilatus.pc-9.fairford2006.arp.jpg   Switzerland Trainer 47
Pilatus PC-21 Pilatus pc-21 hb-hzc lands arp.jpg   Switzerland Trainer 0 55 on order for 2014
Cirrus SR22 CirrusDesignSR22C-FJSH02.JPG  United States Trainer 25 replaced The Reims Cessna F172s
Transport / Special Mission
Airbus A340 Etihad a340-500 a6-ehb arp.jpg  France Transport A340-213 1 Royal Flight
Airbus A330 MRTT Royal Air Force Airbus A330MRTT Bidini.jpg  France Transport & refuelling MRTT 6[16]
BAe 125 BAe146 aircraft from A Flight of 32 (The Royal) Squadron MOD 45147916 (cropped).jpg  United Kingdom Transport B 4 Royal Flight
Boeing 747 Ba b747-400 g-bnle arp.jpg  United States VIP Transport 747-300
2 Royal Flight, 747-300 from Saudi Arabian Airlines
Boeing 757 Icelandair Boeing 757-256 Wedelstaedt.jpg  United States Medical Transport 1
Boeing Business Jet Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 N231WN.jpg  United States Transport BBJ1
Royal Flight
Boeing E-3 Sentry E-3 Sentry exercise Green Flag 2012 (Cropped).jpg  United States AWACS
Airborne Refuelling
E-3A seeking upgrades
Being upgraded & then replaced by A330 MRRT, 3 converted to RE-3A reconnaissance aircraft.[17]
CASA CN-235  Spain Transport M-10 4 Royal Flight
Cessna 550 Citation Bravo Cessna 550b citation bravo cs-dhr arp.jpg  United States Transport C550 4 Royal Flight
Gates Learjet 35 Gates Learjet 35A AN0385420.jpg  United States Transport A 2 Both transferred to the Royal Saudi Armed Forces Medical Wing in July 2009
Gulfstream III C-20 Gulfstream.png  United States Transport 2
Gulfstream IV Gulfstream IV RNLAF.jpg  United States Transport 1
Gulfstream V Gulfstream Aerospace G-V-SP Gulfstream G550 MEL Vabre.jpg  United States Medical Transport 2
Lockheed C-130 Hercules Saudi C-130.JPG  United States Transport
Airborne Refuelling
VIP Transport
Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules C-130J 135th AS Maryland ANG in flight.jpg  United States Transport
Airborne Refuelling
Lockheed Martin KC-130J
20 on order.[18]
5 on order.[18]
Lockheed L-100 Tepper-l382-N3867X-061120-03cr-10.jpg  United States Transport L-100-30 6
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 KLM McDonnell Douglas MD-11 PH-KCK Ingrid Bergman.jpg  United States Transport MD-11 1 Royal Flight
Transport / Attack Helicopters
Agusta-Bell 212 US Navy 120131-N-XK513-120 A Sailor directs a UH-1N Huey helicopter from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 261, (Reinforced) during flight ope.jpg  Italy Transport Helicopter 27
Agusta-Sikorsky AS-61 CH-124 Sea King.jpg  Italy Transport Helicopter A-4 3 Royal Flight
Bell 205 Huey1.jpg  United States Transport Helicopter 24
Bell 212 / Bell 412 US Navy 120131-N-XK513-120 A Sailor directs a UH-1N Huey helicopter from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 261, (Reinforced) during flight ope.jpg  United States Transport Helicopter EP 37
Eurocopter AS532 Cougar Bulgarian cougar (cropped).jpg  France Combat Search and Rescue M 12
Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin Victoria Police (CHC Helicopters Australia) Eurocopter AS-365N-3 Dauphin 2 Vabre.jpg  France Naval Helicopter
Medical Helicopter
24 The SA-365F variants are operated by Royal Saudi Naval Aviation.
Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma Swiss Air Force Super Puma arrives RIAT Fairford 10thJuly2014 arp.jpg  France Naval Helicopter F 13 Operated by Royal Saudi Naval Aviation.
Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk.jpg  United States Transport helicopter 2
AH-64 Apache AH-64D Apache Longbow.jpg  United States Attack helicopter AH-64A/D/E 82
Unmanned aerial vehicless
TAI Anka TAI-ANKA-UAV-FAR14-3659.JPG  Turkey UAV Anka-A 4
Chengdu Pterodactyl I Wing Loong.jpg  China UAV 24 [19]



Current and former aircraft of the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF)
An RSAF Eurofighter Typhoon at Malta on delivery 
A Boeing F-15S Eagle, the prime strike fighter of the RSAF 
Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force pilot adjusts his oxygen mask while in the cockpit of an F-5 Tiger II aircraft prior to flying a training mission. 
A RSAF British Aerospace Hawk in 2011 
A RSAF F-5 Tiger during the Persian Gulf War 
C-130 Saudi Air Force


The following officers have been commanders of the RSAF:

  • 1985–1996, Lieutenant General Ahmed Ibrahim Behery
  • Unknown- 4 April 2004, Lieutenant General Abdul Aziz bin Mohammad Al-Henadi
  • 5 April 2004, Prince Lieutenant General Abdulrahman bin Fahd Al-Faisal[21]
  • Lieutenant General Mohamed Al Ayesh
  • Lieutenant General Fayyadh H. AL Ruwaili
  • May 14, 2014 - June 10, 2015 Lieutenant General Mohammad Bin Ahmad Al-Shaalan[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Flightglobal - World Air Forces 2015 (PDF),
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ [2] -
  4. ^ [3] -
  5. ^ [4] -
  6. ^ [5] -
  7. ^ Reed, John (18 March 2013). "The Saudi air force wants to protect its newest planes from cyber attack". Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "Saudis seek upgrade of E-3 AWACS, tankers". Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "Riyadh requests $25.6bn worth of US helicopters". Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ " Contracts for Tuesday, June 26, 2012". Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Air Forces Monthly - February 2013 pg32 accessed 18 January 2013
  13. ^ "UPDATE 1-BAE Systems signs Saudi-Eurofighter deal". Reuters. 3 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  14. ^ "2 IRANIAN FIGHTERS REPORTED DOWNED BY SAUDI AIR FORCE". 6 June 1984. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "Accident description". Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "Paris Air Show 2015: Saudis take delivery of final MRTT". IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. IHS Jane. Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  17. ^ "Boeing 707". Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  18. ^ a b Air Forces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire: Key Publishing. January 2013. p. 24. 
  19. ^ Saudi Arabia signs deal for China's Pterodactyl drone -, 6 May 2014
  20. ^ "المصرى اليوم". Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  21. ^ King Fahd appoints Commander of Air Force - SAMIRAD (Saudi Arabia Market Information Resource). (2004-04-05). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  22. ^ Saudi Lt-General Mohammad Al-Shaalan, new RSAF Commander - Tactical Report (). (2014-5-21). Retrieved on 2015-06-26.

External links[edit]