Gulf Nations’ Arms Bonanza

In November and December, the US State Department announced details of fighter aircraft (from the governments of Kuwait and Qatar on November 17) and helicopter (from the governments of the UAE and Saudi Arabia on December 8) purchase proposals by four Persian Gulf nations. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has delivered the required certification for each of the multibillion dollar sales to the US Congress.

The Government of Qatar requested to purchase 72 F-15QA Strike Eagle multi-role fighter aircraft and many items that included weapons; provision for US-based lead-infighter- training; ground support; personnel training; and simulators. This is a foreign military sales programme valued at $21.1 billion.

Qatar’s request for 72 F-15QA Strike Eagles represents a major increase in the combat air power capability of the Qatar Emiri Air Force which is currently provided by Mirage 2000-5 fighters assigned to 7 Air Superiority Squadron based at Doha.

A second announcement on November 17 was a request from the Government of Kuwait to purchase 32 F/A-18E and eight F/A-18F Super Hornets powered by F414-GE-400 engines. Among the many items included in the requests are; eight spare F414-GE-400 engines and 24 engine modules; 41 APG-79 active electronically scanned array radar units; 12 AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pods; 14 ASQ-228 ATFLIR systems; launch rails compatible with AIM-9 Sidewinder; AIM-120 AMRAAM and AGM- 88 HARM missiles; aircraft spares; aircrew and maintenance training. This is a foreign military sales programme valued at $10.1 billion.

The Government of Kuwait requires contractors to satisfy an offset obligation equal to 35% of the main contract purchase price for any sale of defence articles in excess of KWD 3 million.

The F/A-18E Super Hornet will supplement and eventually replace the Kuwait Air Force’s aging F/A-18 Hornet fleet operated by 9, 25 and 61 Fighter Attack Squadrons based at Ahmed al Jaber Air Base.

Combat proven, the Super Hornet is a much more capable aircraft than the legacy Hornet, that features high order language-based operational flight program software, a digital cockpit and avionics, and a very advanced set of sensors led by the powerful APG-79 AESA radar unit. The Super Hornet can employ a wide range of weapons including the very latest versions of air-to-air missiles, and precision-guided munitions including those with a stand-off capability. As such the Super Hornet represents a major increase in the combat air power capability of the Kuwaiti Air Force.

December 8 was a good day for Boeing’s rotorcraft division because two possible sales from two Persian Gulf nations were announced; each for a company product. The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) requested a possible sale of 28 remanufactured AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and nine new examples. It also requested 76 T700-GE-701D engines (56 remanufactured, 18 new, and two spares); 39 ASQ-170 modernised target acquisition and designation sights; 32 remanufactured and modernised APR-48B radar frequency interferometers; 46 AAR- 57 common missile warning systems (31 remanufactured, nine new, six spares); and personnel training. This is a foreign military sales programme valued at $3.5 billion. The AH-64E Apache will replace the AH-64D currently serving in the UAE Army’s 100th Aviation Group based at Al Dhafra Air Base. On the same date as the AH-64E announcement, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia requested a possible sale of Major Defense Equipment involving: 48 CH-47F Chinooks; 112 T55-GA-714A engines (96 installed and 16 spares); 58 AAR-57 common missile warning systems (48 installed and 10 spares); and 48 M240H 7.62mm machine guns. This is a foreign military sales programme valued $3.51 billion.

The CH-47F Chinook will increase the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command’s interoperability with US forces and provide the Kingdom with a helicopter heavy lift capability for the first time. Current helicopter lift capability is limited to one Royal Saudi Air Force squadron of AS532M Cougars.