Saudi Air Force has introduced first Boeing F-15SA fighter jet, of which it ordered 84 new-built aircraft together with the upgrade of 70 older F-15S it already operates.
The F-15SA is a derivative of the two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle multi-role fighter. It is claimed to be the most advanced variant of the Eagle built to date, incorporating 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.
The fighter jet 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 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.