The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) formally inducted its first Boeing F-15SA multi-role fighter aircraft in a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the King Faisal Air College in Riyadh.
Equipped with the AN/APG-63(v3) active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar and a slew of air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions, including the AIM-120C7 and AIM-9X, the F-15SA was ordered as part of a comprehensive modernization program of the RSAF.
In 2010, the U.S. State Department approved a proposal sale – valued at more than USD $29 billion – for 84 new-built F-15SA and upgrade packages for 70 existing RSAF F-15S fighters. In addition to munitions, the package also included logistics and maintenance support.
The U.S. credits the Saudi F-15 program as “a cornerstone of the relationship between the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the RSAF.” In its 2010 request to Congress, the U.S. State Department stated that the “F-15SA will help deter potential aggressors by increasing Saudi’s tactical air force capability to defend [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] against regional threats.”
Notes & Comments:
Boeing markets the F-15SA as the “F-15 Advanced.” The platform is a cut below the F-15SE Silent Eagle, which is configured with internal weapon stores (for decreased detectability on radar). However, the F-15SA is a robust platform, retaining the F-15’s inherent range and payload advantages, but pairing them with a modern onboard sensor suite comprised of both an AESA radar as well as externally-placed infrared search and track (IRST) pod. In its multiple variants, the F-15 is the mainstay fighter of the RSAF.
Currently, Saudi Arabia and Israel are the two native F-15 operators, but they will be joined by Qatar, which received approval to order up to 72 F-15QAs in a USD $21 billion program.