Saudis seek fix for Boeing F-15 engine woes

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Notification reveals possible switch to GE powerplants

Saudi Arabia is studying re-engining its 70-strong Boeing F-15S fleet with General Electric F110-129s in place of the existing Pratt & Whitney F100-229s because of an "ongoing sustainment problem" related to the harsh operating environment in the Middle East.

The plan, which also includes a possible upgrade of the P&W engines or a combination of re-engining and some resustainment work, was revealed when the US Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress on 13 November of a possible sale to the Saudi Arabian government.The notice, which requires Congressional approval and follow-up Saudi Arabian government action before contract signing, covers up to 155 F110-129s or 20 F100-229s. The DSCA notice states: "The proposed sale will help overcome an ongoing sustainment problem with the RSAF's F-15S engines that has affected their air operations." Estimated cost of the potential contract, including full support, integration and logistics support is $1.5 billion. Although the aircraft entered service only recently, being delivered between 1995 and 1999, the durability issues are believed to have led to some being grounded. The Saudi air force fleet has also been reduced by two F-15S losses, also thought to be related to engine problems.

P&W says it is offering "a comprehensive technology upgrade programme to support the long-term sustainability of the Saudi air force". This is expected to include advanced cooling and separation features developed for the F119/F135 engines.

For GE, a Saudi Arabian re-engining deal would be a major boost for the F110-129, which broke into the F-15 market when it was picked by South Korea and Singapore for their F-15K/SG variants.

GE says the interior architecture of the F110-129 is well suited to the desert environment.