The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) substantially increases its number of pilot training systems by buying 22 Hawk and 55 Pilatus PC-21 trainers, Britain’s BAE and Pilatus of Switzerland have confirmed last month.
The RSAF is already one of the largest air forces in the world and by far the most powerful in the region. After the U.S. Air Force and the Japanese Self Defense Air Force it is the largest operator of F-15 fighters, with 154 planes of various models currently flying and another 84 on order.
Other fighter jets in the inventory include 111 Tornados (24 soon to be retired) and 24 Eurofighter Typhoon (48 more on order, with an option of another 72) and 120 Northrop F-5E/F (in reserve).
With the increase in the number of fighter planes came a demand for more pilots and by the end of last month BAE Systems confirmed the order of 22 BAE Hawks for advanced training and 55 Pilatus PC-21 for basic training for Saudi Arabia. The deal is worth a combined £ 1.6 billion ($ 2.5 b / € 2 b) and is managed by BAE.
The order includes flight simulators, other training aids, associated equipment and the instruction of Saudi Air Force personnel, delivery will be 2014 for the PC-21 and 2016 for the Hawks.
Guy Griffiths, Group Managing Director International, commented the announcement: “Through the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer, the trainee fast jet pilots will have access to the very latest in advanced simulation for radar, weapons and defensive aids training to enable a smooth transition to front line aircraft, including Typhoon.” This statement points to the Hawk 128, known as TMk.2 in the RAF, as the new Saudi jet trainer, although this is nowhere explicitly said.
The aviation website Flightglobal also mentions 25 additional basic trainer aircraft being ordered for the RSAF, but does not provide any details.