Royal Saudi Air Force
The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF; Arabic: القوات الجوية الملكية الـسعودية, al-quwat al-jawwiyyah al-malakiyyah as-sudiyyah), 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 American and Japanese air forces.
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.
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 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)
The Al Yamamah contract was controversial because of the alleged bribes associated with its award. Nonetheless, the RSAF announced its intention to purchase the 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.
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 17 September 2007 Saudi Arabia announced it had signed a £4.4bn deal with BAE Systems for 72 Typhoons.
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.
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.
On April 2013, British defence firm BAE Systems delivers the first two new Typhoons of 24 to Saudi Arabia.
In 2013, the USAF tendered for security services to protect the Saudi air force from Cyberwarfare.
The RSAF units are divided into Wings that are dispersed across the seven air bases:
- RSAF Wing 1 at King Khalid Air Base, Khamis Mushait
- RSAF Wing 2 at King Fahad Air Base, Taif
- RSAF Wing 3 at King Abdulaziz Air Base, Dhahran
- RSAF Wing 4 at King Khalid Military City, Hafar Al-Batin
- RSAF Wing 5 at King Khalid Air Base, Khamis Mushait
- RSAF Wing 6 at Prince Sultan Air Base, Al Kharj
- RSAF Wing 7 at King Faisal Air Base, Tabuk
- RSAF Wing 8 at King Abdullah Air Base, Jeddah
- RSAF Wing 11 at King Abdulaziz Air Base, Dhahran
Units of the RSAF
- 1 Squadron (Royal Flight/BBJ&HS125)
- 2 Squadron (F-15C And F-15D)
- 3 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoon)
- 4 Squadron (C-130)
- 5 Squadron (F-15C And F-15D)
- 6 Squadron (F-15S)
- 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-15C And F-15D)
- 14 Squadron (Helicopters)
- 15 Squadron (OUT SERVICE)
- 16 Squadron (C-130)
- 18 Squadron (E-3/KE-3A)
- 19 Squadron (RE-3A)
- 21 Squadron (BAE Hawk)
- 22 Squadron (PC-9)
- 24 Squadron (A330 MRTT)
- 25 Squadron (Bell 412)
- 29 Squadron (Tornado ADV to be replaced with the F-15SA)
- 30 Squadron (Helicopters)
- 32 Squadron (KC-130H And KC-130J)
- 33 Squadron (Royal Medical Flight)
- 34 Squadron (F-15C And F-15D)
- 35 Squadron (Jetstream)
- 37 Squadron (BAE HAWK)
- 42 Squadron (F-15C AND F-15D)
- 44 Squadron (Bell 412)
- 55 Squadron (F-15S)
- 66 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
- 75 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
- 79 Squadron (BAE Hawk)
- 80 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoon)
- 83 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
- 88 Squadron (Hawk)
- 92 Squadron (F-15S)
- 99 Squadron (Cougar)
Current aircraft inventory
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.
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.
|McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle||Strike fighter||SA
|84 on order
|70 S variant to be upgraded to SA standard.12 SA have been delivered including two upgraded S variants.|
|McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle||Fighter||C
|Eurofighter Typhoon||Multirole fighter||T.2
|70 delivered. 72 on order, all will be manufactured by BAE Warton facility, instead of planned final assembly line in Saudi Arabia.|
|Panavia Tornado IDS||Ground attack||80||Being upgraded at a cost of $4.66 billion.|
|BAe Hawk||Advanced trainer||Mk. 65
|29||22 Hawk AJT on order, delivery planned in 2016.|
|BAe Jetstream||Trainer||31||1||2 delivered, S/n 2102 crashed near Dhahran 14 October 1989, killing all 5 on board|
|Pilatus PC-21||Trainer||–||40||55 on order for 2014|
|Cirrus SR22||Trainer||24||replaced The Reims Cessna F172s|
|Transport / Special mission|
|Airbus A340||Transport||A340-213||1||Royal Flight|
|Airbus A330 MRTT||Transport & refuelling||MRTT||6|
|BAe 125||Transport||B||4||Royal Flight|
|Boeing 747||VIP Transport||747-300
|2||Royal Flight, 747-300 from Saudi Arabian Airlines|
|Boeing 757||Medical Transport||–||1|
|Saab 2000 AEW&C||airborne early warning and control||2|
|Boeing E-3 Sentry||AWACS
|E-3A seeking upgrades
Being upgraded & then replaced by A330 MRRT, 3 converted to RE-3A reconnaissance aircraft.
|Raytheon King Air 350||Special Mission / Electronic Warfare||6||3 on order|
|An-132||Multiple variants||0||Initial order for 6, more to be ordered in multiple variants, to be build in Saudi Arabia|
|Antonov An-148||Medical Transport||0||4 on order|
|Antonov An-178||Surveillance and reconnasissance / Transport||0||30 on order|
|CASA CN-235||Transport||M-10||4||Royal Flight|
|Cessna 550 Citation Bravo||Transport||C550||4||Royal Flight|
|Gates Learjet 35||Transport||A||2||Both transferred to the Royal Saudi Armed Forces Medical Wing in July 2009|
|Gulfstream V||Medical Transport||–||2|
|Lockheed C-130 Hercules||Transport
|Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules||Transport
|20 on order.
3 on order.
|Lockheed L-100 Hercules||Transport||L-100-30||6|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-11||Transport||MD-11||1||Royal Flight|
|Transport / Attack helicopters|
|Agusta-Bell 212||/||Transport helicopter||–||27|
|Agusta-Sikorsky AS-61||Transport helicopter||A-4||3||Royal Flight|
|Bell 205||Transport Helicopter||–||24|
|Bell 212 / Bell 412||Transport helicopter||EP||37|
|Eurocopter AS532 Cougar||Combat search and rescue||M||12|
|Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin||Naval helicopter
|24||The SA-365F variants are operated by Royal Saudi Naval Aviation.|
|Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma||Naval helicopter||F||13||Operated by Royal Saudi Naval Aviation.|
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 in 1982.
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
- Lieutenant General Mohamed Al Ayesh
- Lieutenant General Fayyadh H. AL Ruwaili
- 14 May 2014 – 10 June 2015 Lieutenant General Muhammad Al Shaalan
- Royal Saudi Air Force Museum
- Saudi ranks
- Prince Sultan Advanced Technology Research Institute (معهد الأمير سلطان لأبحاث التقنيات المتقدمة), a Defense research and development center established by Royal Saudi Air Force and King Saud University.
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