Saudi Arabia sends its new F-15SA fighters to Red Flag for the first time

Saudi F-15SA Red Flag Nellis
Saudi Arabia sends its new F-15SA fighters to Red Flag for the first time.

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) has sent its combat aircraft several times to Nellis AFB for the Red Flag exercise, but has never deployed its new F-15SA fighters in Nevada. On 2 March 2019, six F-15SA jets reached Nellis AFB to take part in the second session of the most advanced air combat training in the world, Red Flag 19-2, which began on 8 March and will run until 22 March. They are assigned to the newly established 29th Squadron homed at King Faisal AFB, Tabuk, but according to the serial numbers (0628, 0629, 0630, 0631, 0632, 0633), it seems that they come directly from the factory. No round trip was reported by the RSAF as in previous deployments in the US.

The F-15SA (Saudi Advanced) is the brand new Saudi Arabia fighter plane. It is different from the well-known Strike Eagle due to some advanced features that include conformal tanks, fly-by-wire control systems, new AESA APG-63V3 radar, fully digitalized cockpit, targeting system on Helmet Mouted Cueing System, new EW Digital Electronic Warfare System System / Common Missile Warning System (DEWS / CMWS) and IRST. Furthermore, the F-15SA is able to carry a wide range of air-to-air weapons such as AIM-120C7 AMRAAM medium range missiles and AIM-9X SIDEWINDER short-range missiles and air-to-ground weapons like AGM-84 SLAM-ER, AGM -88 HARM, AGM-154 JSOW and SDB GBU-39 bombs. The weapons are fixed on 11 external points, compared to the 9 of the Strike Eagle. 

Saudi Arabia signed an agreement in December 2011 to buy 84 new-build F-15SA jets and to upgrade 70 F-15S jets to the "SA" standard. The RSAF received the first 4 F-15SAs in December 2016, additional 26 jets in 2017, 13 in 2018 and 6 in 2019, for a total of 49 F-15SAs delivered to date.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: George Karavantos

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