Saudi Smart Bombs: Paveways from Raytheon
In late January 2011, Raytheon announced a $475 million contract with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its Paveway family of precision-guided munitions. These Paveway II and Paveway III kits transforms ordinary bombs into laser-guided smart bombs, and the firm’s Enhanced Paveway kits add dual-mode laser/GPS guidance.
Here’s what is known, and what is not, about the Saudi order…
Saudi requests for GPS-guided weapons have been a sensitive political issue in the past, but a set of October 2010 requests represented a breakthrough. Even so, per Saudi requests, Raytheon would not confirm Paveway types, numbers, designated aircraft platforms, or even whether the Kingdom was a previous Paveway customer.
Having said that, Paveways have been integrated with Tornado strike jets, F-15 Strike Eagles, and Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role fighters, all of which are operated by the RSAF. More to the point, there is some evidence to suggest that integration has already taken place for Saudi Arabia specifically. BAE’s Saudi Tornado Sustainment Programme has reportedly involved both Paveway and Enhanced Paveway integration, giving their fleet of older strike aircraft full capabilities. The photo above shows an F-15S Strike Eagle with an array of weapons that includes Paveways on the outside, but the October 2010 DSCA request, for more modern F-15SA Strike Eagles and F-15S improvements, suggests that GPS-enabled weapons may require additional upgrades to the F-15S fleet. The Eurofighter Typhoons ordered in recent years are Tranche 2 machines, which should include Paveway and MIL-STD-1760 integration as part of their precision attack capabilities.
Raytheon representatives have confirmed that this specific contract used the American Direct Commercial Sale process, which is why it was not announced by the DSCA as a Foreign Military Sales request. Nor is it connected to the GBU-24 Paveway III bombs requested in Saudi Arabia’s DSCA notification of interest in F-15SA fighters. The other thing Raytheon would confirm was that this is not an indefinite delivery/quantity umbrella deal for future orders as needed, but a committed order.
Prince Khaled bin Sultan, the Saudi assistant minister of defense and aviation, has recently stated the Kingdom’s desire to have more local manufacturing and service, via foreign technology transfer. He is setting up a special department that would report directly to the minister of defense and aviation, and some initiatives are already underway by firms like BAE, which is readying a Eurofighter final assembly line. The release said that this order “keeps production lines operational in the US,” and Raytheon Missile Systems VP of Supply Chain Management Mike Jarrett says this Paveway contract will work to balance American and Saudi production. Raytheon will use their usual suppliers for Paveway subcomponents, while partnering with Saudi industry and holding supplier workshops in order to fulfill the support equipment portions of the contract.