It was a treble celebration in Riyadh at the King Faisal Air Academy (KFAA) as the college celebrated its 50th anniversary, marked the graduation of its 91st course of students, and welcomed the first of the Boeing F-15SA tactical fighters developed for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF).
King Salman attended the celebrations with his son, Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Omar Al-Bashir, president of Sudan. The day’s ceremonial included a parade and a flypast, which featured one of the first four F-15SAs delivered, while two more aircraft were displayed on the ground.
The king and the other VIP guests were also shown a specially commissioned film marking the 50th anniversary of the KFAA, and another about the new F-15SA and its advanced technologies.
The F-15SA is a derivative of the two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle multi-role fighter, and is claimed to be the most advanced variant of the Eagle built to date, incorporating a host of features taken from the advanced F-15K Slam Eagle (used by South Korea) and the F-15SG (operated by Singapore), as well as some ‘new-to-the-Eagle’ systems.
It features two additional outboard under-wing hardpoints (stations 1 and 9). Their use required the development and installation of a new digital fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system, which now features a disorientation recovery capability.
The aircraft is equipped with the Raytheon APG-63(V)3 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, BAE Systems’ digital electronic warfare system/common missile warning system (DEWS/CMWS), a joint helmet-mounted cueing system (JHMCS), and an AN/AAS-42 infrared search and track (IRST) system, as well as the Tiger Eyes third generation low altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night (LANTIRN) navigation pod.
The fighter offers little that the Typhoon does not already provide, though it does have an AESA radar (an as yet unfunded upgrade for Saudi Typhoons).
Though the F-15SA has a long-range and heavy-payload capability, the aircraft does not have a long-range stand-off weapon in the class of the Storm Shadow cruise missile, now being integrated on RSAF Typhoons.
The RSAF requested 84 new-built F-15SA jets and an upgrade package for the 70 surviving Saudi F-15S fighter-bombers (to bring them to the same standard) in 2010, and this request was notified to the US Congress in November 2010.
The resulting $29.4 billion contract for 154 advanced Eagles, plus logistics, spares, maintenance support and weapons, signed on December 29 2011, formed the biggest component in a $60 billion package that became the biggest-ever US arms sale to a foreign country. (end of excerpt)
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