WDS: Three-way dogfight for Saudi fighter order

A long-standing Royal Saudi Air Force fighter requirement is now being contested by the Dassault Rafale, the Boeing F-15EX, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

One of the RSAF current Typhoons likely to be upgraded if new batch is ordered. (Photo: BAE Systems)

Previously it had been assumed this requirement would be for a new batch of Eurofighter Typhoons, but KSA has been looking at other options following a German ban on exporting the type to Saudi Arabia.

Because the Typhoon was developed and built by a quadrinational consortium, consisting of Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, any partner nation can block an export sale; a 2018 contract for 48 aircraft was delayed by the German refusal to support the proposed sale.

That block has now reportedly been lifted. Saudi Arabia had received an initial batch of 72 Typhoons between June 2009 and June 2017, under a UK/Saudi government-to-government agreement.

Last October, Saudi Arabia officially requested a detailed quote from Dassault for 54 Rafale fighters with a deadline of 10 November.

At WDS this week, Boeing’s Vince Logsdon, vice-president global business development and strategic marketing, said the company was offering 54 Boeing F-15EX Eagle II fighters to meet the same requirement. He said Boeing was also exploring conversion of 84 existing F-15SA aircraft to EX configuration, and perhaps also the 84 F-15S aircraft now being converted to the SA standard.

This would obviously give improved fleet commonality, while the F-15EX also offers a more advanced radar, and improved self-protection capabilities.

BAE Systems and the British Government have been unwilling to talk about the Typhoon offering to Saudi Arabia, though BAE updated its statement about “current and potential new requirements” being “part of long-standing agreements between the UK Government and Saudi Arabia,” to an acknowledgement that the company was actively “supporting the UK Government to respond to the statement of requirements issued by the Saudi Arabian Government for a future requirement for Typhoon aircraft.”

This would suggest that there is a definite Saudi requirement for new Typhoons.

BAE Systems has not confirmed the number of aircraft being offered, nor the exact standards/configurations. It is, however, understood that the requirement is for 54 aircraft.

Supplying European common radar system (ECRS) Mk0-equipped Typhoons – similar to those being supplied to Qatar – could allow quick deliveries, with potential to upgrade these, or older Typhoons, to carry the more advanced ECRS.Mk2 radar, and to have large area cockpit displays, new mission computers and Striker II helmets.