The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has enormous hydrocarbon reserves, consistently entering the number of exporters of countries that determine world oil prices. Explored oil reserves are 260 billion barrels (24% of proven oil reserves on Earth).
Oil exports are a source of wealth and prosperity of the state. It forms the 75% of the country's revenues. Steadily high revenues from oil exports made it possible to carry out a number of social reforms in the country and create a modern infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy governed by the sons and grandsons of the first king Abdel Aziz. Laws in the kingdom are based on Islamic law, the power of King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz al-Saud of the Saudi dynasty is limited only by Sharia law.
Members of the royal family occupy key leadership positions in the army and the security service. More than 220 000 people serve in the ranks of the armed forces of the kingdom, they are all contract soldiers. Citizens of other countries, mainly instructors and technical specialists, are also involved in the military service.
Saudi Arabia is in the top ten countries in terms of financing the armed forces, currently defense spending exceeds 10% of GDP - about $ 50 billion. For comparison - Russia's military spending in 2013 was $ 69 billion.
Huge financial resources make it possible to purchase in large quantities the most modern weapons of Western-made equipment. As part of the Air Force is about 300 combat aircraft (13 squadrons) and 80 helicopters (part of the combat vehicles are in storage).
The kingdom has a developed airfield network, including 15 military airfields, including five main air force bases (each of them is headed by a brigadier general who reports directly to the air force commander). The main air bases have a developed aerodrome infrastructure that meets the highest modern requirements, and capital high-security concrete shelters have been built for all existing combat aircraft.
The air force and air defense of Saudi Arabia are the most dynamically developing types of armed forces. The country's leadership regards them as the main shock and deterrent force and has set an ambitious task for them - to become the strongest in the Middle East.
The basis of the Saudi air force is made up of American-made F-15 Eagle heavy fighters of various modifications. F-15 aircraft have been supplied since the beginning of the 80-x. Then the Saudi Air Force got an 84 such fighter.
Saudi fighter F-15 "Eagle"
In the 1996-1998, the X-NUMX aircraft of the F-72S modification were additionally delivered. This machine is a slightly simplified version of the F-15E shock, compared with the original version of the Saudi fighter jets were equipped with radar and EW systems with the corresponding F-15C / D. 15 aircraft are optimized for strikes against ground targets, the rest of the 48 was supposed to be used as interceptors.
In December, 2011 ordered an additional batch of X-NUMX fighter aircraft of the F-84SA modification in the amount of $ 15 billion. In April, 11,4 signed a contract to upgrade the existing F-2012S Strike Eagle aircraft to F-15SA version for a total of $ 15 million. As a result The Saudi kingdom became the second largest operator of F-410,6 after the USA.
To date, Saudi fighters F-15SA are the most advanced fighters in the F-15 family. They are equipped with GE F110-GE-129 engines, additional weapon systems, electronic warfare and countering systems, “glass” cockpits, infrared detection and tracking systems, and radar stations with active phased antenna array.
Another type of modern combat aviation The equipment purchased in Europe was the Typhoon fighter manufactured by the consortium Alenia Aeronautica, BAE Systems and EADS. The Saudi Air Force has 32 vehicles of this type.
Saudi fighter "Typhoon"
Saudi Arabia has signed an additional contract worth 4,43 billion pounds to supply more 72 aircraft. Under the contract, the organization of the licensed assembly of Eurofighters in the kingdom is supposed "Typhoons" should replace the outdated American light F-5E / F fighter jets that are currently in storage or used for training purposes.
Saudi Air Force F-5F Tiger II Fighter
The Royal Air Force also operates Panavia Tornado combat aircraft in interceptor versions - Tornado ADV (F3) - 15 pcs and fighter-bomber - Tornado IDS (GR1) - 82 pcs. Deliveries were made from 1989 to 1998 year.
Google Earth Satellite Image: Tornado Airplanes at Tabuk Airfield
Part of the machines due to the development of the resource removed from service and is in storage. Within the framework of the existing modernization program, it is planned to equip the percussion Tornado with more modern electronic means and weapons.
Saudi Interceptor Tornado F3
It is assumed that the next 10-15 years these aircraft will remain in service. The remaining in flight condition Tornado F3 interceptors were returned to the UK as a partial payment for the Typhoon fighters delivered.
The fleet of training aircraft (TCB) includes about 100 machines, summarized in seven squadrons (Hawk Mk 65, PC-9, Cessna 172, Super Mushshak). The available 40 jet mounts Xk MN 65 / Mk 65A can be used as light attack aircraft.
Saudi TCB “Hawk”
Pilots of the Saudi Hawks aerobatic team fly on the Hawks; they are based at King Faisal Air Force Base (Tabuk).
The presence of Saudi Arabian E-3A AWACS aircraft in the Saudi Arabian Air Force takes them to a higher quality level. The first Saudi E-3 was delivered in June 1986 of the year, deliveries of the remaining four E-3 were completed by September 1987 of the year.
Saudi E-3A AWACS
Not a single country in this region has DRLO planes of this class in its Air Force. As part of the Israeli Air Force before 2002, there were “flying radars” of the E-2 “Hokai” which, by their capabilities, were significantly inferior to the AWACS aircraft. Another potential opponent of the Saudis - Shiite Iran formally owns two DRLO airplanes based on Il-76, but their performance is in doubt.
Satellite image of Google Earth: DRLO E-3А АWACS aircraft at Prince Sultan air base
In 2012, Boeing received a contract worth $ 66,814 million to modernize communications equipment and install new radar systems on D-EITS and E-3 Royal Air Force Saudi Arabia aircraft.
The core of the military transport aviation is more than 40 US military-technical cooperation C-130 Hercules of various modifications, including KN-7H 130 tankers.
C-130 Air Force Saudi Arabia (Royal Air Wing)
In 2012, Saudi Arabia additionally bought in the USA 20 military transport aircraft HC-130J Super Hercules and 5 of KC-130J refueling aircraft worth $ 6,7 billion. There are also another two dozen transport workers: CN-235, Boeing 737, Boeing 747 , Boeing 757, MD-11, Jetstream 31. Refueling airborne combat aircraft provide 6 Boeing KE-3A. The air force includes the Royal Air Wing - 16 aircraft (Cessna 310 and Boeing 747 SP, CN-235M, Boeing 737-200, BAe 125-800, VC-130H).
Helicopter aviation has 78 units (AN-64A, Bell 406 CS, AB-212, AB-206, SH-3). In the US, 70 attack helicopters with the latest AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III, 72 UH-60M Black Hawk transport helicopters, 36 light reconnaissance AH-6i Little Bird and 12 MD-530F helicopters have been ordered.
Air defense troops are an independent type of the armed forces of the kingdom. They consist of anti-aircraft missile forces, anti-aircraft artillery and RTV units. In operational subordination of air defense are fighter-interceptors from the Air Force. Organizationally, the air defense forces are consolidated into six air defense districts. These troops are entrusted with the task of covering important administrative, economic, and military facilities: the capital, oil production areas, groups of troops, air force and missile bases. The air defense of Saudi Arabia is the basis of the Shield of Peace air defense system. Basically its creation was completed in 1995 year.
Satellite image of Google Earth: the location of the radar (blue diamonds) and the air defense system (colored triangles) in Saudi Arabia.
“Peace Shield” includes the X / NUMX early warning radar AN / FPS-17, three D-radar systems coupled to the AN / PPS-117 radar and AN / TPS-43 near and medium radius.
Satellite image of Google Earth: airfields based on air defense interceptors (red) and DRLO airplanes (blue)
The airborne bases have operational centers that are integrated with DRLO airplanes, fighter aircraft, SAM missiles and anti-aircraft artillery. The air defense systems of Saudi Arabia are combined using the Peace Shield command, control, intelligence and communications system.
In total, the 144 air defense missile system Patriot 128, the Advanced Hawk air defense missile system MIM-23B, the Advanced Hawk 141, the Sahin air defense missile system Xtalin, and the 40 anti-aircraft guns and the 270 128 SPU air defense systems and 35 anti-aircraft guns and settings, and the XnUMX 50 SPU Krotal, as well as the 30 anti-aircraft guns and settings, and the XnUMX 30 SPU Krotal, as well as the 92 anti-aircraft guns and settings, and the XnUMX 20 SPU Krotal, as well as the 163 anti-aircraft guns and settings, and the 10N systems, and the 70 SPU XtalM and 40 anti-aircraft guns and the 70 SPU XtalM and XNUMX anti-aircraft guns, and the XNUMX SPU XtalM and XNUMX anti-aircraft guns and settings, etc. "Oerlikon", XNUMX XNUMX-mm ZSU AMX-XNUMXSA, XNUMX XNUMX-mm ZSU MXNUMX "Volcano". In addition, XNUMX XNUMX-mm L-XNUMX anti-aircraft guns are in stock.
Samar short-range "Shahin"
The American Patriot MIM-104 PAC-2 air defense systems are the most modern anti-aircraft complexes of Saudi Arabia. This type of air defense system was deployed in the country during the Desert Storm to protect the American contingent. From 1993, the 21 battery was supplied to the kingdom’s own forces. At the moment, negotiations are underway with the United States on the supply of the Patriot air defense missile system of the PAC-3 modification.
PU ZRK "Patriot"
Currently deployed and are on duty on an ongoing basis 11 batteries. In different parts of the country, positions have been prepared for the deployment of air defense missile systems, some of them have high-strength concrete shelters for technical equipment and a bunker for personnel.
Satellite image of Google Earth: equipped positions of the Patriot air defense system with concrete high-strength shelters in Dhahran
Most of the Patriot batteries are located along the northeast coast, protecting production areas and ports through which oil is exported.
Satellite image Google Earth: deployed SAM "Patriot" in Riyadh
Since the end of 60-s, Saudi Arabia has received the Hawk MIM-23 SAM system, and later an upgraded version of the Advanced Hawk was delivered. Currently 18 batteries deployed. They are mainly deployed in the same areas as the Patriot air defense system.
Modern air forces and air defense systems guarantee, with a high degree of reliability, the protection of key religious, industrial, oil-producing and defense centers. The strike capabilities of the Saudi air forces in the Middle East region are currently inferior only to Israeli aircraft. Given the upcoming upcoming deliveries of modern aircraft from the US and Europe, this gap, if not equal, will be reduced to a minimum. Israelis will only hope for a higher quality training of their pilots.
Saudi Arabia does not hide its ambitions for the role of a regional superpower and leader of the Islamic world. Riyadh has a consistent policy of eliminating potential competitors, such as Syria, Iraq and Iran. Given the growing regional instability, the Saudi ruling dynasty does not spare funds for the construction of a powerful army in the region. Over the past 20 years, the number of Saudi armed forces has more than doubled, while they are equipped with the most modern weapons. Recently, the kingdom is actively conducted research in the field of nuclear energy. In February, 2014 of the year appeared news that Saudi Arabia intends to become a nuclear power. This is quite alarming information, considering that the official religion in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi Islam.
Satellite images courtesy of Google Earth.