Military Wiki
Royal Saudi Air Force
Flag of the Royal Saudi Air Force.svg
Royal Saudi Air Force Ensign
Founded 1920s - Present
Country Saudi Arabia
Allegiance Saudi Arabia
Branch Air Force
Type Military Aviation
Role Aerial warfare
Size 20,000
Part of Saudi Arabian Armed Forces
Nickname(s) RSAF
Engagements Gulf War :
Desert Shield
Battle of Khafji
Desert Storm
Sa'dah Insurgency[1]
Chief of Air Staff Lt. General Fayadh Bin Hamed Al Subaie.
Sultan bin Salman
Roundel Roundel of the Royal Saudi Air Force.svg Roundel of the Royal Saudi Air Force-Low Visibility.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack Panavia Tornado IDS
Eurofighter Typhoon
Bomber Boeing F-15S
Panavia Tornado IDS
Boeing RE-3A
Boeing E-3A
Fighter Boeing F-15C/S
Eurofighter Typhoon
Interceptor Boeing F-15C/S
Eurofighter Typhoon
Panavia Tornado ADV
Reconnaissance Northrop RF-5E
Panavia Tornado IDS
Trainer Pilatus PC-9A
BAe Hawk
Transport Lockheed C-130

The Royal Saudi Air Force (Arabic language: القوات الجوية الملكية السعودية‎, al-quwwāt al-ğawwiyyah al-malakiyyah as-suʿūdiyyah), 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 USAF and the JASDF.

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 72 Eurofighter Typhoons delivered by BAE.


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 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.

Derelict RSAF T-28A Trojan, one of four acquired in the 1950s, at King Abdulaziz University

RSAF Roundel on the side of a Lightning Aircraft

During the 1980s and '90s, 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 Panavia 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-90s 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 17sq with its RF-5E and the Boeing E-3A is the Airborne Early Warning platform operated by 18sq.

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 Eurofighter 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.[2]

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 the 17 September 2007 Saudi Arabia announced it had signed a £4.4bn deal with BAE Systems for 72 Eurofighter Typhoons.[3]

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.[4]

On 23 May 2012, British defence firm BAE Systems is 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 includes simulators, ground and training equipment and spares.[5]

On April 2013, British defence firm BAE Systems delivers the first two new Typhoon Eurofighters of 24 to KSA.

In 2013, the USAF tendered for security services to protect the Saudi air force from Cyberwarfare.[6]



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

Units of the RSAF

RSAF F-15C Eagle about to refuel from a KC-135 over the Persian Gulf

File:RSAF E-3A.jpg

RSAF Boeing E-3A Sentry

RSAF Lockheed C-130H Hercules

  • 1 Squadron (Royal Flight/BBJ&HS125)
  • 2 Squadron (F-15)
  • 3 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoons)
  • 4 Squadron (C-130)
  • 5 Squadron (F-15)
  • 6 Squadron (F-15)
  • 7 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 8 Squadron (The Mushshak)
  • 9 Squadron (PC-9)
  • 10 Squadron (Eurofighter Typhoon)
  • 11 Squadron (Royal Flight/G-IV&CE550)
  • 12 Squadron (Bell 212)
  • 13 Squadron (F-15)
  • 14 Squadron (Helicopters)
  • 15 Squadron (F-5B possibly transitioning to Eurofighter Typhoons)
  • 16 Squadron (C-130)
  • 18 Squadron (E-3/KE-3A)
  • 19 Squadron (RE-3A)
  • 21 Squadron (Hawk)
  • 22 Squadron (PC-9)
  • 29 Squadron (Tornado ADV to be replaced with Eurofighter Typhoons)
  • 32 Squadron (KC-130H)
  • 33 Squadron (Royal Medical Flight)
  • 34 Squadron (F-15)
  • 35 Squadron (Jetstream)
  • 44 Squadron (Bell 412)
  • 55 Squadron (F-15)
  • 75 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 79 Squadron (Hawk)
  • 83 Squadron (Tornado IDS)
  • 88 Squadron (Hawk)
  • 92 Squadron (F-15)
  • 99 Squadron (Cougar)

Current aircraft inventory

RSAF Eurofighter Typhoon

An RSAF Tornado F3 during Operation Desert Storm

RSAF AH-64 Apache

Boeing F-15S Eagle, the strike fighter of the RSAF

Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force pilot adjusts his oxygen mask while in the cockpit of an F-5 Tiger II aircraft prior to flying a training mission.

British Aerospace Hawk in 2011

F-5 Tiger in Gulf War.

On 11 August 2011, The Saudi Royal Air Force received 24 Typhoons from British Royal Air Force (Taif Airbase). On 12 August 2009, UPI reported that Saudi Arabia was seeking upgrades for their E-3 fleet and aerial refuelling tanker aircraft.[7]

In October 2010, an interest for a 60 billion USD defense procurement package from the US was unveiled. It consisted of around 30 billion for 84 F-15SA fighters, upgrade of the existing F-15S to the same standard, parts and munitions as well as other 30 billion for 72 UH-60M, 36 AH-6I, 36 AH-64D, 12 MD530 helicopters and parts. The helicopter request is for the Saudi Arabian Army.[8]

Combat aircraft

Aircraft Origin Role Versions In service Notes
Fighter Aircraft
Boeing F-15SA Strike Eagle United States Multirole fighter SA 0 84 on order[9][10]
Boeing F-15C Eagle United States Fighter C
1 F-15C lost on 2 December 2012.[11]
Boeing F-15S Strike Eagle United States Strike fighter S 70 68 to be upgraded to SA standard[10][12]
Panavia Tornado IDS  United Kingdom Ground Attack 87 Being upgraded at a cost of $4.66 billion.
Panavia Tornado ADV  United Kingdom Fighter 24 To be withdrawn from service & shipped to the UK in a buy back package part of the Al Salam deal for 72 Typhoon F2.
Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter II United States Fighter E
Withdrawn from frontline service aside from the training role, some squadrons such as #10 based in Taif will be replaced with the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Eurofighter Typhoon  United Kingdom Multirole fighter T.2
72 on order, all will be manufactured by BAE Warton facility, instead of planned final assembly line in Saudi Arabia.[13] A further 72 may be ordered.
Unmanned aerial vehicle
Anka  Turkey UAV Anka-A 4
Trainer Aircraft
BAe Hawk  United Kingdom Advanced Trainer Mk. 65
Mk. 65A
29 22 Hawk AJT on order, delivery planned in 2016.
BAe Jetstream  United Kingdom Trainer 31 2
Super Mushshaaq  Pakistan Trainer - 20
Pilatus PC-9   Switzerland Trainer - 47
Pilatus PC-21   Switzerland Trainer - 0 55 on order for 2014
Reims Cessna F172  France Trainer G
Transport Aircraft
Airbus A340  France Transport A340-213 1 Royal Flight
Airbus A330  France Transport & refuelling MRTT 3[14] 6 on order.[15]
BAe 125  United Kingdom Transport B 4 Royal Flight
Boeing 747 United States VIP Transport 747-300
2 Royal Flight, 747-300 from Saudi Arabian Airlines
Boeing 757 United States Medical Transport - 1
Boeing Business Jet United States Transport BBJ1
Royal Flight
Boeing E-3 Sentry United States AWACS E-3A 5 seeking upgrades
Boeing KE-3A United States Airborne Refuelling
Being upgraded & then replaced by A330 MRRT, 3 converted to RE-3A reconnaissance aircraft.[16]
CASA CN-235  Spain Transport M-10 4 Royal Flight
Cessna 550 Citation United States Transport C550 4 Royal Flight
Gates Learjet 35 United States Transport A 2 Both transferred to the Royal Saudi Armed Forces Medical Wing in July 2009
Gulfstream III United States Transport - 2
Gulfstream V United States Medical Transport - 2
Lockheed C-130 Hercules United States Transport
Airborne Refuelling
VIP Transport
Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules United States Transport
Airborne Refuelling
20 on order.[17]
5 on order.[17]
Lockheed L-100 United States Transport L-100-30 6
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 United States Transport MD-11 1 Royal Flight
Transport Helicopters
Agusta-Bell 212  Italy Transport Helicopter - 27
Agusta-Bell AS-61  Italy Transport Helicopter A-4 3 Royal Flight
Bell 205 United States Transport Helicopter - 24
Bell 412 United States Transport Helicopter EP 2
Eurocopter AS-532 Cougar  France Combat Search and Rescue M 12
Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin  France Naval Helicopter
Medical Helicopter
24 The SA-365F variants are operated by Royal Saudi Naval Aviation.
Eurocopter SA-332 Super Puma  France Naval Helicopter F 13 Operated by Royal Saudi Naval Aviation.
Kawasaki-Vertol 107  Japan Transport Helicopter - 18 Operated by the Ministry of the Interior
Total : 712 +240 on order


The following officers have been commanders of the RSAF:

  • 1985-1996, Lieutenant General Ahmed Ibrahim Behery
  • Unknown, Lieutenant General Abdul Aziz bin Mohammad Al-Henadi
  • 5 April 2004, Prince Lieutenant General Abdulrahman bin Fahd Al-Faisal[18]
  • Lieutenant General Mohamed Al Ayesh

Lieutenant General Fayyadh H. AL Ruwaili

See also


  1. [1][dead link]
  2. [2] -
  3. [3] -
  4. [4] -
  5. [5] -
  6. Reed, John (18 March 2013). "The Saudi air force wants to protect its newest planes from cyber attack". Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  7. Saudis seek upgrade of E-3 AWACS, tankers
  8. "Riyadh requests $25.6bn worth of US helicopters". Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  9. Saudi Arabia plans to buy more American weaponry | Defense | RIA Novosti. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  10. 10.0 10.1
  11. Air Forces Monthly - February 2013 pg32 accessed 18 January 2013
  12. Contracts for Tuesday, June 26, 2012
  13. "UPDATE 1-BAE Systems signs Saudi-Eurofighter deal". 3 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  14. Air Forces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. April 2013. p. 24. 
  15. "Saudi Arabia Buys 3 A330s From France - Defense News". Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  16. "Boeing 707". Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Air Forces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire: Key Publishing. January 2013. p. 24. 
  18. King Fahd appoints Commander of Air Force - SAMIRAD (Saudi Arabia Market Information Resource). (2004-04-05). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.

External links

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