The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has been in the front line of Middle East conflicts for decades. More recently it has played a pivotal role in coalition operations against ISIL militants in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.
With no oil and limited resources, Jordan has had to face the challenge of maintaining its defence spending.
Although it has been bolstered by the United States and the hosting of coalition fighter aircraft, this year Jordan has had to reappraise the size and strength of its air force.
In order to balance the defence budget and sustain its large fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft, in June this year Jordan’s armed forces posted its intention to sell 23 fixed-wing aircraft.
The sale includes two Airbus C295 medium transport aircraft and one Lockheed C-130B, operated by 3 Squadron at Amman-Marka; two CASA AC235 gunships, modified by ATK in conjunction with the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) and operated by 32 Squadron; and 12 former UAE Air Force BAe Hawk Mk.63s that have been replaced by the Pilatus P-21 in the advanced and tactical training roles with 11 Squadron, based at Mafraq. Jordan has also sold two Ilyushin Il-76MF heavy transports, operated by Jordan International Air Cargo, which was founded in 2004 and owned and operated by the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF).
Earlier this year, the Russian arms trade agency, Rosoboronexport, confirmed that it had approved the resale of two Ilyushin Il-76MF military transports from Jordan to Egypt.
The Egyptian Air Force will become the only operator of the Il-76MF, a stretched version of the Soviet-era Il-76MD transport.
Six RJAF CH-4B armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are in service with No 9 Squadron at Prince Hassan Air Base, have also been offered for sale by Jordan. The aircraft operate alongside Schiebel S-100 Camcopter vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAVs, which will be retained.
Designed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the medium-altitude long-range (MALE) CH-4B is in service with the armed force of neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Eight UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters are also up for sale as new UH-60Ms have been delivered for service with the RJAF’s 8 Squadron.
The UH-60Ls were operated by Joint Special Operation Command (JSOC) on special forces duties alongside six armed MD 530 Little Bird helicopters that are also for sale. In 2018, Jordan had offered 17 of its fleet of 48 AH-1F/S Cobra attack helicopters for sale, along with spare parts. The fleet includes 16 former Israel Defence Forces/Air Force AH-1 Tzefas that were donated by Israel to Jordan in 2015 to help fight Islamic State militants in Syria.
A sign of the RJAF’s wide-ranging modernisation programme is the comprehensive upgrade of 12 of its extant Cobra fleet carried out by Science & Engineering Services (SES) at its Huntsville facility in Alabama. The upgrade includes a new glass cockpit based on the Northrop Grumman Integrated Avionics System; an L3 Wescam MD-15D multi-sensor multispectral targeting system replacing the laser rangefinder and tracker; and a passive self-defence suite, comprising the Orbital ATK AAR-47 missile approach warning (MAW) system and active countermeasures, including the Extant Aerospace ALE-47 chaff/flare dispensers.
Automatic stabilisation equipment (ASE) and Rockwell Collins ARC programmable digital communication system will also be installed.
The SES upgrade includes Lockheed Martin M310 AGM 114R Hellfire launchers, in addition to 70mm unguided rocket launchers.
The RJAF plans to install software for the use of the BAE Systems advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS) when the last of the upgraded Cobras are delivered to 10 Squadron at King Abdullah II Air Base the end of the year.
Following a state visit to Kenya by Jordan’s King Abdullah, there was the signing of a military training and cooperation pact between the two countries and the acquisition of two (although some reports claim up to six) AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters from the RJAF.
The Philippines and Jordan have had a long diplomatic relationship and, after President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Jordan in 2018, both sides placed attention on the shared threat of terrorism. A new memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation was signed between the Philippines Department of National Defense (DND) and the Jordan Armed Forces, which means that two ex-RJAF AH-1Fs will be delivered to the Philippine Air Force.
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