The Hercules fleet of Saudi Arabia is getting bigger and bigger. Upon the 48 aircraft “the Kingdom” is already operating, just two new ones arrived.
The latest deliveries are two KC-130Js, making Saudi Arabia the 16th country operating the type for its in-flight refuelling needs. No other country in the world more C-130s than Saudi Arabia, apart from the aircraft’s homeland United States of course.
Saudi Hercules fleet
In total the Royal Saudi Air Force will receive 5 KC-130Js, while it has 20 regular C-130J-30s on order as well. They will be added to the 30 C-130E/H tactical airlifters, 7 KC-130H tankers, 6 L-100-30 airlifters and 5 VC-130H VIP aircraft.
Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) F-15 fighter jets finally arrived at Incirlik airbase, Turkey, on Friday 26 February after weeks of reports and rumours. The jets were accompanied by an Airbys A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and C-130 Hercules aircraft.
The F-15s are two seat F-15S variants, capable of precision strikes in Syria. Saudi Arabia earlier this month stated it contemplated sending strike aircraft to Turkey for operations over Syria, but it remained unclear wether or when aircraft would actually be deployed.
Riyadh is opposed to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a thought shared by Ankara. The sending of warplanes could escalate the military situation in but especially in the skies over Syria. Russian and Iranian jets have been operating over the country in support of Assas, while Western allied aircraft rage war against Islamic States forces in Syria.
Antonov and Saudi Arabia have signed an agreement on starting An-132 cargo aircraft production in Saudi Arabia, Antonov reports in a press release dated 21 February. A manufacturing complex will be established in Saudi Arabia by Saudi company Taqnia Aeronautics, which will also provice support for other Antonov products.
Saudi Arabia has ordered at least 22 more Hawk trainer jets, sources in Saudi Arabia said on Thursday 18 February. The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) has been using Hawk for several decades already and now requires more to train aspiring Eurofighter Typhon pilots. The deal is worth 3 billion USD and includes support and training.
In the Eighties and Nineties, Saudi Arabia already ordered 50 older model Hawks. These aircraft are also flown by the Saudi Hawks, the RSAF display team. In 2012, the newer T2 version was ordered, with 22 delivered to the kingdom.
BAE Systems has yet to comment on the news, but is expected to confirm the Saudi order in a statement. In its 2015 results, the defense company already mentions an order for 22 Hawks, which likely is the order mentioned now in Saudi Arabia.
UPDATED 16 February | The Royal Saudi Air Force is about to send combat jets to Incirlik Airbase in Turkey, to start bombing runs against the so-called Islamic State forces (ISIS / ISIL / Daesh) in Syria.
Update | News surrounding the deployment is vague at best. Most recent info is that the Saudi jets will deploy to Turkey ‘by the end of February’, sources in Riyadh say.
Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Cavusoglu confirmed the Kingdom’s plans Saturday 13 February 2015. Saudi quarter makers already inspected Incirlik and see it fit for operations, Cavusoglu said to Turkish journalists.
With the substantial Russian combat air expeditionary wing operating inside Syria, the RSAF probably will not only deploy air-to-ground attack dedicated F-15S/SA Strike Eagles, Eurofighter Typhoons and Panavia Tornado IDSs – or a mixture of those – but very likely add a dedicated counter-air/air escort element to the ops. That task could either be done by the Typhoons or Saudi F-15C and D Eagle air-supiority fighters.
According to sources in Ankara and in Riyadh the Saudis are even considering a land operation, with troops being flown into Incirlik to cross into Syria from Turkish territory. If that plan will be executed, it may mean involvement of Saudi AH-64 Apache attack helicopters operating from Incirlik as well, but so far that plan is just a plan.
The Saudis are calling an end to the leadership of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, who in turn is more or less supported by Moscow – at least for the time being.