December 2005 saw confirmation that Saudi Arabia had ordered Eurofighter Typhoons, but the 72-plane deal started sinking into the tar sands shortly thereafter. Investigations from Britain’s Serious Fraud Office swirled around a GBP 43 billion oil-for-planes deal from the 1980s called Al-Yamamah (see Appendix A); in return, the Saudis played some hardball of their own. The investigation was eventually called off at the highest levels of government, and later confirmed by the House of Lords. After a period of uncertainty, a contract was finally signed on Sept 11/07. Ironies aside, the price was a bit lower than many expected; even so, it comes with support arrangements that are likely to push the final value quite a bit higher.
This DID Spotlight article covers the Saudi Eurofighter deal, its associated controversies, and related developments.
In January 2008, EADS North America announced that The Royal Saudi Air Force will acquire 3 of EADS A330 Multi-role Tanker/Transports (MRTTs), equipped with both EADS centerline-mounted ARBS (advanced Air Refueling Boom System) for use with its F-15s et. al., and a pair of underwing hose-and-drogue refueling pods suitable for use with the Saudis’ forthcoming Eurofighter Typhoons.
In 2009, Saudi Arabia doubled down on its purchase…
In mid-2011 reports surfaced that Saudi Arabia was preparing to buy around 200 German Leopard 2A7+ main battle tanks. Those reports stirred serious controversy in Germany, and indirectly confirmed the existence of a sales request.
Saudi Arabia would hardly be the first recipient of new or refurbished German tanks; indeed, Germany has displayed a consistent policy of selling cheap used tanks to countries all around Europe, and far beyond. Saudi Arabia is a somewhat surprising customer, because of its traditional “dual buy” structure for its land forces equipment, but there are strong reasons for Germany to be very interested in closing a Saudi sale. At the same time, the concerns expressed by opposition members are not without foundation.
In February 2010 Defense News reported that Saudi Arabia’s fleet of Tornado low-level, medium-range strike fighters would soon be receiving a pair of significant enhancements: MBDA’s stealthy Storm Shadow medium range cruise missiles, and the MBDA/Boeing Brimstone anti-armor missile. The Storm Shadow would give the Saudis a potent long range strike capability against even heavily-defended targets, while the Brimstone missiles will allow Saudi fast jets to serve in an assault-breaker role, or offer reliable close air support for ground forces.
These developments were actually Phase 2 of an ongoing effort to keep the RSAF’s Tornado strike fleet relevant until at least 2020, under BAE Systems’ Saudi Tornado Sustainment Programme (TSP).
In late November 2012, Raytheon announced a $600+ million contract to deliver a national-level Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) system to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Raytheon Network Centric Systems was awarded the deal as a Direct Commercial Sale, which means that the Saudi Ministry of Defense will manage the buy and the implementation project themselves. This is in contrast to the Foreign Military Sale process, which routes contract negotiations and management through a selected department of the US military.
None of this is any kind of magic. Poor command and poor training, coupled with the best C4I system money can buy, just means that your military can watch itself lose conventional fights in near-real time. Having said that, a system that removes some of the “fog of war” can help a force possessing basic or better competence, and national-level C4I is critical to any nation considering missile defense. So, what do the Saudis want?
Nov 26/12: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s intent to buy blanket order requisitions, under a Cooperative Logistics Supply Support Agreement (CLSSA). The Government of Saudi Arabia wants to be able to issue these blanket order requisitions under the CLSSA for spare parts in support of its M1A2/S Abrams Tanks, M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), construction equipment, and support vehicles and equipment in the inventory of the Royal Saudi Land Forces Ordnance Corps.
In May 2012, Saudi Arabia signed a long-rumored agreement with BAE for training aircraft that can take RSAF pilots all the way from basic training to lead-in fighter training, along with their accompanying classroom training and simulators. The Saudi purchase takes place within the existing Saudi-British Al-Yamamah/ Project Salam Defence Co-operation Programme, which also provided the RSAF with its high-end fleet of Eurofighter fleet, and its Tornado strike aircraft.
This GBP 1.6 billion/ $2.5 billion contract will provide familiar plane types, that continue previous RSAF relationships.
Sept 21/11: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Saudi Arabia’s formal request for up to $886 million of equipment to augment the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s existing light artillery capabilities. The Royal Saudi Land Forces already have towed 155mm and 105mm howitzers and support vehicles and systems, and DSCA says they will have no difficulty absorbing these additional howitzers into their armed forces. If a contract is negotiated, implementation of this sale will not require the assignment of any U.S. Government or contractor representatives to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
As a Foreign Military Sale mode purchase, any contract will be managed by a US Army department, probably the Rock Island Arsenal, IL. The specific items requested include:
May 12/11: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s formal request on behalf of its army to buy over $300 million in night vision equipment.
The DSCA release specifically mentions “defense and counter-terrorism requirements to deter current insurgent activity along their southern border” as part of the rationale. Yemen has indeed been a little reported but consequential regional trouble spot, which has drawn open intervention from Saudi naval and air forces in recent years. The Royal Saudi Land Forces want:
Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review reports that the US State Department has approved the resale of 6 Saudi C-130E Hercules medium tactical transport planes to Turkey, green-lighting a deal that was struck in summer 2010. Under US law and the terms of its arms sales, State Department approval is required when reselling any American defense items to 3rd countries.
Turkey is reportedly buying the planes at a bargain price.