|Written by Sabc|
The F-15S was born in the wake of the Gulf War when Saudi Arabia initiated a series of significant aircraft purchases. After passing numerous hurdles raised by the US Congress, the aicraft was finally authorized to be sold to the Middle-East. A slightly degraded version of the Strike Eagle, the F-15S was the biggest US military hardware sale to date.
A Contract Worth Fighting for
In 1992 Saudi Arabia wanted to buy 24 airframes of F-15F models, which were basically single-seat Strike Eagles with degraded avionics - that is without the electronics that seemed too sensitive to sell outside the United States. This sale was rejected by the US Congress. McAir however was not giving up that easy. They developed the F-15H variant (originally for sale to Greece - H=Hellas), which was basically a Strike Eagle stripped from its more sensitive and specialized capabilities and they offered it for sale to Saudi Arabia. The proposal was welcome by the would-be customers, however this sale was again rejected by the US Congress by fear of giving away a few of US's most precious technological developments to a potentially unstable ally in a very delicate geopolitical situation.
Business is business however, the parties involved continued working hard and at last an official announcement were made by US Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney on 1 October, 1992 that Saudi Arabia is cleared to purchase the jet. The letter of offer and acceptance was signed on 10th May 1993 by RSAF officials. They were cleared to purchase 72 airframes from the F-15XP version. The F-15XP (or as it is currently known, the F-15S) was a slightly downgraded version of the F-15E, the jet which freshly emerged from ODS as clearly the most potent tactical strike platform in the US arsenal. Airframes with serial numbers from 93-0852 to 93-0923 were to be delivered to Saudi Arabia, equipped with Pratt&Whitney F100-PW-229 engines (a total of 154 engines were to be delivered), together with necessary ground equipment, training, maintenance and support. The whole transaction was given a code name of 'Peace Sun' and the grand total of the whole contract is estimated somewhere around 9 billion USD, which made this business the largest US military hardware sale to date - a business definitely worth fighting for.
Delivery and Training
Out of the 72 airframe order, 48 were planned to be optimized for the ground strike role. For these versions, CFT's and (degraded) LANTIRN systems were ordered. The original plan was to produce two airframes per month, but the tempo of the production later was reduced to only one airframe per month - due to budgetary difficulties from the Saudi side. The first F-15S made its 72 minute maiden flight on 19th June 1995 from St.Louis (Lambert International Airport) with test pilots Gary Jennings and Charles Van Gordon at the controls. The official hand-over ceremony was held on 12th September the same year. The rest of the aircraft were scheduled to be delivered continually until 1999.
The very first F-15S touched Saudi ground on 13th June 1995. The home airbase for the jets was King Khaled AB in Khamis Mushait, operated by 55 Squadron. The USAF established a small training detachment with the goal to train the first set of saudi instructor pilots and WSOs who then would be able to train their fellow saudi arabians. The members of the detachment were in a very delicate situation - while they were clearly briefed not to share US military secrets and tactics with saudi aircrew, in the meantime they had to prevent them feeling that they are flying inferior jets. Besides this there were lots of attitude problems with saudi aircrews - especially lack of discipline and initiative. The general US opinion was at that time that these newly trained F-15S aircrews were probably more capable than iraqis or iranians, but they definitely had to learn a lot to match NATO aircrew.
Saudi Arabia sought to upgrade their existing F-15S fleet and they wanted to purchase more of the upgraded version. The goal was to have 70 + 84 jets at identical configuration, thus Saudi Arabia requested 84 new F-15SA aircraft, plus an upgrade of its 70 strong F-15S fleet to F-15SA standards, plus related equipment and weapons.
After one and a half year of negotiations since June 2010, US officials announced the deal on Dec 29, 2011. Valued at 29.4 billion USD, the agreement includes production of 84 new F-15SA aircraft and the modernization of 70 existing F-15S aircraft as well as munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics.
US Department of Defense announced on Apr 2, 2012, that Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Fla., has been awarded a $410,610,000 firm-fixed-price contract for 95 Sniper advanced targeting pod and spares; 35 compact multiband data link; 70 infrared search and track ( IRST) systems and spares; 75 IRST pylons; and data. Work is to be completed by Nov. 31, 2017.
US Department of Defense announced on Apr 2, 2012, BAE Systems, Nashua, N.H., has been awarded a $366,547,000 firm-fixed-price contract for 70 Digital Electronic Warfare Systems ( DEWS)/Common Missile Warning Systems (CMWS) and spares; three DEWS/CMWS test stations and associated spares; and data. Location of performance is Nashua, N.H. Work is to be completed by Nov. 31, 2018.
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|Last Updated on Friday, 27 April 2012|
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