|Royal Saudi Air Force|
|القوات الجوية الملكية السعودية|
456 combat aircraft
|Part of||Saudi Arabian Armed Forces|
|Motto(s)||God is the Greatest|
|Commander of the Air Force||Lieutenant General Turki bin Bandar Al Saud|
|Low Visible roundel|
|E-3 Sentry, Saab 2000 AEW&C|
|Fighter||Panavia Tornado, Eurofighter Typhoon, F-15E|
|Helicopter||Bell 412, AS532, Sikorsky UH-60|
|Reconnaissance||Panavia Tornado, King Air 350|
|Trainer||Pilatus PC-21A, PAC MFI-395, Cirrus SR22, BAE Hawk|
|Transport||C-130H, C-130J, King Air 350|
The Royal Saudi Air Force (Arabic: الْقُوَّاتُ الْجَوِّيَّةُ الْمَلَكِيَّةْ ٱلسُّعُوْدِيَّة, romanized: Al-Quwwat Al-Jawiyah Al-Malakiyah as-Su’udiyah) (RSAF) is the aviation branch of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces.
The Royal Saudi Air Force currently has approximately 1,106 aircraft, 40,000 active personnel, 23,000 recruits, 9 wings, +99 squadrons, and a Special Forces unit dedicated to combat search and rescue.
The RSAF has developed from a largely defensive military force into one with an advanced offensive capability, and maintains the third largest fleet of F-15s after the U.S. 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 48 Eurofighter Typhoons delivered by BAE.
The RSAF was formed in the mid-1920s with British assistance from the remains of the Hejaz Air Force. It was initially equipped with Westland Wapiti IIA general purpose aircraft flown by pilots who had served Ali of Hejaz but had been pardoned by the Saudi king. 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.
Early aircraft used by the RSAF included the Caproni Ca.100, Albatros D.III, Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8, Farman MF.11 Airco DH.9, dH 82 Tiger Moth, Westland Wapiti, Avro Anson, Douglas C-47, and the B-26 Invader.
As part of the Magic Carpet arms deal between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, four single-seat Hawker Hunter F.6s and two Hunter T.7s were ordered from Hawker in 1966. The aircraft were delivered to No. 6 Squadron at Khamis Mushayt Airbase in May 1966. Although the Hunters were operational following attacks on Saudi Arabia by the Egyptian Air Force they were not a success as interceptors as they lacked any ground control but were used for ground attack. One single-seat aircraft was lost in 1967 and the remaining aircraft were presented to Jordan in 1968.
The Saudi forces are equipped with mainly western equipment. Main suppliers to the RSAF are companies based in the United Kingdom and the United States. 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 strike / ground attack force is formed by ca 70 Tornados (a second 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 remnants of more than 120 F-15C/D aircraft delivered starting in 1981. Pilot training is executed on the Pilatus PC-21 and BAe Hawk. The C-130 Hercules is the mainstay of the transport fleet and the Hercules is assisted by CN-235s and Raytheon King Air 350 light transports. Reconnaissance is performed by Tornadoes and F-15s equipped with the DJRP electro-optical reconnaissance pod. The Boeing E-3A is the Airborne Early Warning platform operated by No. 18 Squadron RSAF.
The VIP support fleet consists of a wide variety of civil registered aircraft such as the Airbus A330, Airbus A320, 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).
From 1989 to 1991 three Lockheed C-130 Hercules of the RSAF were destroyed in accidents.
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, the British defence firm BAE Systems agreed 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 included simulators, ground and training equipment and spares. In April 2013, BAE Systems delivered the first two new Typhoons of 24 to Saudi Arabia.
In 2013, the USAF tendered an offer for security services to protect the Saudi air force from cyberwarfare attacks.
In March 2021, RSAF started a joint military exercise, that will last until April 10, with the US and Pakistani Air Forces that will help in exchanging experiences and expertise.
Previous aircraft flown by the Royal Saudi Air Force included the F-86F Sabre, dH 100 Vampire FB.52, BAC Strikemaster Mk 80, DHC-1 Chipmunk Mk 10, C-54A Skymaster, C-123B Provider, T-6A Texan, T-33A Shooting Star, Cessna 310, O-1 Bird Dog, T-35A Buckaroo, T-34A Mentor, OH-58A Kiowa, T-28A Trojan, F-5 Tiger II, Lockheed JetStar, dH Comet 4C (VIP transport), BAe 146, Alouette III, BAC Lightning F.52, F53 and T.55
Various groups have accused Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen of human rights violations and some have gone as far as accusing the coalition of war crimes. The majority of these accusations stem from airstrikes undertaken by the coalition. In February 2016 the Secretary-General of the UN (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon raised strong concerns over continued Saudi-led airstrikes, saying that "coalition air strikes in particular continue to strike hospitals, schools, mosques and civilian infrastructures" in Yemen. On 28 December 2021, The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, raised an alarm about the safety of civilians in the war-torn Yemen given the escalating violence, including airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. According to his statement, airstrikes on Sanaa resulted in loss of civilian lives, and damage to the country’s infrastructure. He also underlined that violations of international humanitarian and human rights law cannot continue with impunity.
A June 2022 report by The Washington Post and the Security Force Monitor at Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute stated that a "substantial portion" of airstrikes by the Saudi-led campaign were "carried out by jets developed, maintained and sold by U.S. companies, and by pilots who were trained by the US military". According to ACLED, airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition had killed 24,000 people, including 9,000 civilians.
The RSAF is divided into nine Wings that are dispersed across seven Air Bases:
|Eurofighter Typhoon||UK / Germany / Italy / Spain||multirole||72||48 on order|
|Panavia Tornado||Italy / UK / Germany||multirole||IDS||81||employs variable-sweep wing design|
|F-15 Eagle||United States||multirole||F-15C/S/SA||211|
|E-3 Sentry||United States||AEW&C||E/RE -3A||6||one used for SIGINT / ELINT missions|
|Saab 2000||Sweden||AEW&C||2000 AEW&C||2|
|Boeing KC-707||United States||aerial refueling||KE-3A||7|
|KC-130 Hercules||United States||aerial refueling / transport||KC-130H/J||7/2||3 J variants on order|
|Airbus A330 MRTT||France||aerial refueling / transport||KC-30A||6|
|Gulfstream IV||United States||VIP transport||2|
|BAE Jetstream||United Kingdom||VIP transport||31||1|
|Cessna Citation II||United States||VIP transport||Bravo||4|
|Super King Air||United States||transport||350||9||5 used for reconnaissance – 4 on order|
|C-130 Hercules||United States||tactical airlift||C-130H/J||33||20 J variants on order|
|Bell 212||United States||utility||24|
|Bell 412||United States||utility||16|
|UH-60 Black Hawk||United States||utility||UH-60L||2|
|Eurocopter AS332||France||utility / SAR||13|
|F-15 Eagle||United States||conversion trainer||F-15D||21|
|BAE Hawk||United Kingdom||advanced trainer||65/A||69||12 on order|
|Pilatus PC-21||Switzerland||advanced trainer||55|
|Cirrus SR22||United States||light trainer||25|
|PAC MFI-17 Mushshak||Pakistan||primary trainer||20|
The following officers have been commanders of the RSAF: