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The BBC is reporting that the Saudis buy Eurofighters from UK: “Saudi Arabia is to buy 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets BAE Systems, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed.”

Why? The Saudis have never bothered to defend themselves, depending on others to come to their rescue. The Saudi Air Force pretty much follows the Shrubbery’s model for showing up for work. I can’t believe they have 72 princes hanging around who want to fly jet fighters. They should have spent the money on air conditioned tennis courts, something the Saudi military might use.

These things are going to show up someplace that no one is going to like to cover Monaco gambling debts.  Imagine the new Taliban air force.


1 Badtux { 09.17.07 at 8:30 pm }

Probably the main purpose of the new Typhoons is to replace the obsolete F-5’s in the Saudi inventory, of which they currently have 110 on their rosters. Their F-5’s are over 30 years old and well past their “Expire By” date, and currently are mostly used for training purposes. The Saudi government wanted to buy F-16’s to replace the F-5’s, but Israeli objections torpedoed that sale. Thus the Typhoons.

The Saudi military is generally a joke, but the Saudi Air Force is the least joke-worthy of their services. Aside from the F-5’s (which in this day and age are pretty much a joke, useful only for dropping iron bombs onto undefended targets), they have a significant number of Tornados and F-15’s which presumably they will retain in operation. The F-15’s are also getting long in tooth and most of their Tornados are ground strike aircraft, thus why they are going after a new air superiority fighter (the Typhoon). I suspect they’d really prefer the F-16 (which amongst other things is significantly cheaper than the Typhoon and thus they could buy more of them), but the Israelis have vetoed that sale unless the F-16’s are crippled to the point where they would be of no use to to the Saudis. (What, you thought that we ran our own foreign policy here in the U.S.? Oh get out of here!).

— Badtux the Military Penguin

2 ellroon { 09.17.07 at 10:52 pm }

Show of force to the Iranians? Air cover for the Sunni militias? Just because the entire Middle East is about to explode into war?

Maybe they can hire some Blackwater guys to fly them in case they get shot at….

3 Badtux { 09.17.07 at 11:02 pm }

From a defense standpoint, air power is a significant force multiplier, especially in a desert where attackers must cover wide open spaces in order to threaten your major cities and installations. Air power alone cannot defeat a nation, but it can certainly immobilize and deter an attacking force — just ask the Syrians who were bombed by Israel as they rolled towards Jordan’s capital back during the Palestinian uprising in Jordan. After virtually all of their armor was destroyed from the air, they glumly trudged back to Syria on foot.

So it is no misunderstanding that Saudi Arabia puts most of their defense dollars into their air force. From the standpoint of deterring an attack against Saudi Arabia that is probably their best bang for the buck. But the question, “who is going to attack Saudi Arabia?” remains. Who, indeed?

-Badtux the Military Penguin

4 Bryan { 09.17.07 at 11:10 pm }

Badtux, they should be flying Nerf Spads so no one on the ground gets hurts when they slam them into the ground. Khobar Towers was a local event for me, as it was staffed by neighbors, and I know people who were involved in building the King Khalid Military City.

The F-15s date back to Jimmy Carter, so they are definitely outdated, but the Saudis don’t show up for appoints unless it suits them, either business or military.

My concern is the number of Wahabi whackos who might decide to be pilots. The Saudis are not our friends.

Ellroon, there may be a real concern, or it may simply have been a reason for Prince Bandar to receive his billions in bribes.

5 Badtux { 09.18.07 at 3:43 pm }

Bryan, in case you weren’t watching, a lot of Saudis got aircraft pilot training over the past 20 years. You probably know about 19 of them though those 19 flunked the landing part of the coursework, but they were part of thousands of Saudis who took flight training in the U.S. over the past two decades, which was what gave Osama the idea of recruiting those 19 in the first place. Saudi Arabia has no shortage of Saudi pilots. However, as you point out, the allegiance of those pilots is questionable. How many Wahabi whackos, indeed…

That said, the Typhoon is fundamentally an air defense fighter jet (the block being sold to the Saudis has virtually non-existent ground attack capabilities), and it’s hard to see how that’s going to be a threat to anybody. Given the number of obsolete and/or inoperative jets in the Saudi inventories (the Tornados are the only jets they have that are even remotely modern and as I noted their Tornados are primarily the ground attack variant), the wonder would be if they *weren’t* in the market to replace some of those antiques, not that they *are* in the market to replace those decrepit hangar queens. The only real question is whether the U.S. is going to allow Britain to transfer ownership of the AMRAAM weapons systems of the Typhoons to Saudi Arabia at the same time. Without the AMRAAM’s, the Typhoon isn’t even a very good air defense fighter, since any opponent armed with AMRAAMs or their Russian equivalent will simply knock them out of the air at a distance. The Europeans are working on their own replacement for AMRAAM, but that won’t be online until 2012 at the earliest.

6 Bryan { 09.18.07 at 4:23 pm }

Currently the Saudis train at Pensacola [backseaters or navs], Whiting in Santa Rosa for choppers, and Sheppard [basics] at Wichita Falls, Texas along with the other foreign pilots. We see them on the beach, and I saw them when my Dad was stationed at Sheppard. The Sheppard training may have moved to Corpus Christi as the Air Force and Navy have been consolidating a lot of their flight training activities. The individuals may now find it harder to get into flight schools.

With the right avionics and weapons any aircraft is a player. If there was no need for a run to catch the opposing fighters, the C-130 could be decked out with enough fire power to be an air-to-air threat. That might even be a mission the B-1B could actually be useful at. Look how long the F-14 hung around based solely on the Phoenix performance.

The only mission the Typhoon currently flies is as a point interceptor, and the big push may be because of the Iranian Su-30 order, but that will take a while to materialize.

Until we know the weapons systems, we don’t know the aircraft.

7 Badtux { 09.18.07 at 7:51 pm }

True, a modern fighter is mostly just a way to get a weapons system up into the sky so it doesn’t have to accelerate all the way from ground level to shoot down the bad guys. That said, it isn’t much cheaper to renovate old airframes with new avionics and weapons systems than to buy new fighters once you consider the maintenance costs of the old airframes, and the newer fighter will have better fuel efficiency and be capable of carrying a heavier load due to improvements in aerodynamics and jet technology over the years. Plus many older fighters, such as the MiG-21 or F-5, have limited space for new avionics and weapons systems. They were designed as day gun fighters, not as beyond-visual-range missile carriers.

Not to mention the airframe life issue — airframes have a rated life and once you exceed that, it becomes necessary to strip them down and run stress x-rays all over the place to see what the current stress exposure is for the chassis, and given what you find, either re-rate the airframe for additional life or scrap it. This isn’t cheap. There is a reason why Israel retired their F-4’s and replaced them with F-16’s, they had their F-4’s pretty competitive with modern fighters but the airframes were at end-life and keeping them flying was becoming inordinantly expensive.

The Saudi F-5’s have already been effectively retired. I doubt if half of their F-15’s are operational at any given time due to the maintenance costs of what is now a 30 year old fighter. Their Tornados are primarily ground attack aircraft. Given that the Israelis have vetoed selling new U.S. fighters to the Saudis, that leaves Russian Su-30’s, French Rafale, Saab Gripen, and Eurofighter Typhoons on the “things to buy” list. Of these, the Su-30 has political issues as well as being quite expensive, the Gripen is a previous-generation design with a limited range though cheap, and the Rafale and Typhoon are pretty much a toss-up (both rather immature designs) with the Typhoon probably getting the nod because of the Saudi experience with the Tornados (which are made by many of the same vendors behind the Typhoon).

This of course still begs the question, “who are the Saudis defending against?”. I’m not sure even they know that. But I do know they’re looking across their northern border and getting *very* nervous…

8 Bryan { 09.18.07 at 8:18 pm }

There are entirely too many nervous people in that area of the world, and entirely too many weapons being purchased. The Saudis at least have room to maneuver, while the Lebanese gave up on an air force after they figured out they didn’t have the space to fly a jet. They would end up overflying either Syria or Israel if the didn’t take off headed west over the Med.

Even the Chinese had to give up on the MiG-21 design when it became obvious there was room in the nose for a modern radar without restricting air flow to the engine. It was a great “backyard mechanic’s” aircraft and a tough little sucker to shoot down.

9 Badtux { 09.19.07 at 11:39 am }

Yeah, a lot of nervous people in that area of the world. Funny, how invading and destroying one of the countries in that area of the world and turning it into a terrorist haven then threatening two OTHER countries in that area of the world with the same fate makes folks nervous.

10 Bryan { 09.19.07 at 12:25 pm }


11 whig { 09.20.07 at 2:11 am }

I think we invaded two countries, at last count. We might have had an excuse in Afghanistan, if we actually had ever cared about Bin Laden.

12 Bryan { 09.20.07 at 9:10 am }

Whig, Afghanistan was an “approved” war with international support, making it a total separate event.