Royal Saudi Air Force

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Royal Saudi Arabian Air Forces

Royal Saudi Air Force embelm.svg
Seal of the Royal Air Force
Founded 4 July 1916; (as Hejaz Air Force)[1]
Country  Saudi Arabia
Allegiance Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Branch Saudi Armed Forces (as of 1925)
Type Air force
Role Military aviation
Size 63,000 full-time personnel
18,000 reservists personnel
81,000 total personnel
643 aircraft in service (see table)
Part of
Anniversaries 1 November; (67 years ago)
Headquarters Airport Rd, Al Wazarat, Riyadh
Minister of Defense
Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Chief of Joint Staff
General Fayyadh bin Hamid bin Ragad al-Ruwaili
Commander of Royal Air Forces
Lieutenant General Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
Roundel of Saudi Arabia.svg
Roundel of Saudi Arabia - Low Visibility.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack Eurofighter Typhoon
Panavia Tornado
F-15 Eagle
Boeing RE-3A
Boeing E-3A
Fighter Eurofighter Typhoon
F-15 Eagle
Interceptor Eurofighter Typhoon
Reconnaissance F-5
Tornado IDS
Trainer Pilatus PC-9A
BAE Hawk
Transport C-130

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF; Arabic: القوات الجوية الملكية الـسعودية‎, al-quwat al-jawwiyyah al-malakiyyah as-sudiyyah), is the aviation branch of the Saudi Arabian armed forces. The RSAF has developed from a largely defensive military force into one with an advanced offensive capability. The RSAF 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 Saudi pilots training in Italy 1935"—a scene from 'Our Eagles', one of four video wall shows made for the Royal Saudi Air Force Museum.

The RSAF was formed in the mid-1920s with British assistance. 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.

The Saudi forces are equipped with mainly western hardware. Main suppliers are companies in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. 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 fighter force is formed by 134 Tornados from which a 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 more than 120 F-15C/D aircraft delivered starting in 1981. Aircraft training is executed on the Pilatus PC-9, BAe Hawk, Boeing F-15D Eagle and the Northrop F-5F Tiger II. The C-130 Hercules is the mainstay of the transport fleet and the Hercules is assisted by CASA CN-235s. Reconnaissance is performed by 17 Squadron with its RF-5E and the Boeing E-3A is the Airborne Early Warning platform operated by 18 Squadron.

The VIP support fleet consists of a wide variety of civil registered aircraft such as the Boeing 707, 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).

Recent purchases

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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]


The RSAF units are divided into Wings that are dispersed across the seven air bases:

Units of the RSAF

RSAF Roundel on the side of a Lightning Aircraft
RSAF Boeing E-3A Sentry
  • 1 Squadron (Royal Flight/BBJ&HS125)
  • 2 Squadron (F-15C And F-15D)
  • 3 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoon)[8]
  • 4 Squadron (C-130)
  • 5 Squadron (F-15C And F-15D)
  • 6 Squadron (F-15S)
  • 7 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 8 Squadron (The Mushshak)
  • 9 Squadron (PC-9)
  • 10 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoon)[8]
  • 11 Squadron (Royal Flight/G-IV&CE550)
  • 12 Squadron (Bell 212)
  • 13 Squadron (F-15C And F-15D)
  • 14 Squadron (Helicopters)
  • 15 Squadron (OUT SERVICE)
  • 16 Squadron (C-130)
  • 18 Squadron (E-3/KE-3A)
  • 19 Squadron (RE-3A)
  • 21 Squadron (BAE Hawk)
  • 22 Squadron (PC-9)
  • 24 Squadron (A330 MRTT)[9]
  • 25 Squadron (Bell 412)
  • 29 Squadron (Tornado ADV to be replaced with the F-15SA)
  • 30 Squadron (Helicopters)
  • 32 Squadron (KC-130H And KC-130J)
  • 33 Squadron (Royal Medical Flight)
  • 34 Squadron (F-15C And F-15D)
  • 35 Squadron (Jetstream)
  • 37 Squadron (BAE HAWK)
  • 42 Squadron (F-15C AND F-15D)
  • 44 Squadron (Bell 412)
  • 55 Squadron (F-15S)
  • 66 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 75 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 79 Squadron (BAE Hawk)
  • 80 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoon)[10]
  • 83 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 88 Squadron (Hawk)
  • 92 Squadron (F-15S)[9]
  • 99 Squadron (Cougar)

Current inventory

A Typhoon fighter near Malta International
A Saudi Air Force C-130H departing East Midlands
A BAE Hawk from the Saudi Hawks display team
A Boeing RE-3A of the Royal Saudi Air Force
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
F-15 Eagle United States air superiority F-15C 61[11] one lost in Yemen[12]
Eurofighter Typhoon United Kingdom multirole 53[13] one lost in Yemen[14]
Panavia Tornado Italy / United Kingdom multirole IDS 81[13] employs variable-sweep wing design
F-15E Strike Eagle United States strike fighter F-15S/SA 87 28 on order[13]
Boeing E-3 United States AEW 5[13]
Saab 2000 Sweden AEW&C 2000 AEW&C 2[13]
Electronic Warfare
Super King Air United States SIGINT / ELINT 350 2[13]
Boeing 707 United States aerial refueling 8[13]
KC-130 Hercules United States aerial refueling / transport KC-130H 7[13]
Airbus A330 MRTT France aerial refueling / transport KC-30A 6[13]
KC-130 Super Hercules United States aerial refueling KC-130J 2[13]
Gulfstream IV United States VIP 1[13]
BAE Jetstream United Kingdom VIP 31 1[13]
Cessna Citation II United States VIP Bravo 4[13]
Super King Air United States transports 350 10[13]
C-130 Hercules United States tactical airlift C-130H 33[13]
Bell 212 United States utility 24[11]
Bell 412 United States utility 16[11]
Sikorsky UH-60 United States utility UH-60L 2[13]
Eurocopter AS332 France utility / SAR 11[13]
Trainer aircraft
F-15 Eagle United States conversion trainer F-15D 21[13]
Eurofighter United Kingdom conversion trainer 18[13]
BAE Hawk United Kingdom advanced trainer 65/A 66 23 on order[13]
Pilatus PC-21 Switzerland advanced trainer 55[13]
Cirrus SR22 United States light trainer 25[13]
PAC MFI-17 Mushshak Pakistan primary trainer 40[13]


Previous aircraft flown by the Royal Saudi Air Force 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, B-26 Invader, F-86F Sabre, dH 100 Vampire FB.52, Hawker Hunter F.60, BAC Lightning, 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.[citation needed]


The following officers have been commanders of the RSAF:

  • Lieutenant General Ahmed Ibrahim Behery (1985–1996)
  • Lieutenant General Abdul Aziz bin Mohammad Al-Henadi (unknown–4 April 2004)
  • Prince Lieutenant General Abdulrahman bin Fahd Al-Faisal (5 April 2004–unknown)[15]
  • Lieutenant General Mohamed Al Ayesh (unknown–10 May 2013)[16][citation needed]
  • General Fayyadh Al Ruwaili (10 May 2013–14 May 2014)[16][17]
  • Lieutenant General Muhammad Al Shaalan (14 May 2014–10 June 2015)[18]
  • Major General Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al-Ghamdi (2015, acting)[19]
  • Major General Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Otaibi (2015–26 February 2018)[20][21]
  • General Fayyadh Al Ruwaili (26 February 2018–present, second time)[21]

See also


  1. ^ Fromkin, David (2010). A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-8809-0.
  2. ^ Associated Press (5 November 2009). "Saudis launches offensive against Yemen rebels". Archived from the original on 6 November 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Saudi Arabia orders Eurofighter Typhoons in up to 10 bln stg package - report -". 22 December 2005. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2015-07-18.
  4. ^ "Business | Saudis buy Eurofighters from UK". BBC News. 17 September 2007. Retrieved 2015-07-18.
  5. ^ Wolf, Jim (29 December 2011). "U.S. Saudi fighter jet sale to help offset Iran". Reuters. Retrieved 2015-07-18.
  6. ^ "BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia sign £1.9bn Hawk jet deal – BBC News". Retrieved 2015-07-18.
  7. ^ Reed, John (18 March 2013). "The Saudi air force wants to protect its newest planes from cyber attack". Archived from the original on 4 July 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  8. ^ a b AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. February 2016. p. 74.
  9. ^ a b AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. April 2016. p. 9.
  10. ^ AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. August 2015. p. 4.
  11. ^ a b c "World Air forces 2004 pg. 83". Flightglobal Insight. 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "World Air Forces 2018". Flightglobal Insight. 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "King Fahd appoints Commander of Air Force – SAMIRAD (Saudi Arabia Market Information Resource)". 5 April 2004. Retrieved 2015-07-18.
  16. ^ a b Mystery surrounds death of Saudi chief of staff. Arabian Aerospace. Published 25 June 2015. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  17. ^ Saudi Lt-General Fayyadh Al-Ruwaili, new RSAF Commander. Tactical Report. Published 13 May 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  18. ^ "Saudi Lt-General Mohammad Al-Shaalan, new RSAF Commander". Retrieved 2015-07-18.
  19. ^ Saudi Major-General Al-Ghamdi, Acting RSAF Commander. Published 24 June 2015. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  20. ^ Boeing F15-SA Fighter Jet Joins Royal Saudi Air Force Fleet. Defense World. Published 25 January 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  21. ^ a b O'Connor, Tom (26 February 2018). Saudi Arabia Changes Government Up, Switching Top Military Leader Amid Yemen War Struggle. Newsweek. Retrieved 27 February 2018.

External links

  • Official website
  • Order of Battle at Scramble magazine
  • "The Royal Saudi Air Force – A Paper Tiger, Minus the Tiger"
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