The resurgence in oil prices has sparked fresh procurement across the Gulf region

Stewart Penney/LONDON

Procurement in the Gulf dipped significantly during the late 1990s as the oil price collapsed and coffers were drained. The resurgence of oil prices has led governments to restart some competitions, and preparatory work for other buys has kicked off.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest country in the region with potentially the largest shopping list. Its biggest need is for a NorthropF-5E/F Tiger replacement; nominally the order would be for 100 aircraft. In March 1998, the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D was selected over the Saab/BAE Systems Gripen, but no contract was finalised and it is not clear whether Saudi Arabia will stick to its earlier choice or re-open the competition, particularly after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) selected the F-16 Block 60 last year. Saudi Arabia's tactical transport fleet also needs overhauling. In the near-term, an order for 24 Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules is expected, although up to 70 could eventually be ordered if airborne tanker requirements and the needs of the Saudi Armed Forces Medical Services - which operates around 26 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in civilian markings for medevac - are to be met. Kuwait is also believed to be on the verge of ordering four C-130Js.

Saudi Arabia has voiced a need to increase its capabilities. It wants further Boeing F-15S Eagles (a derivative of the F-15E), and early last year told the then US defence secretary William Cohen that 24 more aircraft were needed to supplement the 72 previously ordered. It has also stated a need for more airborne warning and control systems. The air force operates five Boeing E-3A Sentrys - a type no longer in production - but Boeing's E-767 could fit the bill.

The Royal Saudi Land Forces has expressed an interest in the Boeing AH-64 Apache Longbow, possibly as new production machines or rebuilds of its 12 AH-64As. Kuwait, meanwhile, is still expected to finalise a long-awaited deal for 16 radar-equipped AH-64Ds, a type it selected in 1997.


Having signed a deal for 80 F-16s last year and 30 Mirage 2000-9s before that, the big item left on the UAE's shopping list is maritime patrol aircraft. It selected the EADSCN235MPAin 1998 but has yet to finalise a deal.

Oman has several needs, the most pressing being for helicopters, maritime and utility. Up to 50 machines are required and while they could all be one type - the NH Industries NH90, for instance - the order is likely to be split between a utility helicopter such as the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and a maritime machine such as the AgustaWestland Lynx. The Sultanate is also known to be considering the replacement of its Sepecat Jaguars, which have been upgraded to a standard similar to the UK Royal Air Force's Jaguar GR3. The competition is likely to be between the Gripen and the ubiquitous F-16.


Iran has acquired fighters from China and Russia in recent years but is also embarking on several indigenous programmes. The army is seeking utility transports and attack helicopters, and while Kamov's Ka-60 and Ka-52 respectively are being considered for these roles, Iranian industry has produced the Shahed-5, as well as the Shahbaviz (Owl) 2-75 and the Shahbaviz 2061 which are respectively reverse engineered Bell 206 JetRangers and Bell 212/214s. Iran also has the capability to restore non-airworthy Bell AH-1s to flight status, a capability which could be developed to produce new build machines.

Iran is also developing fixed-wing aircraft, the Azarakhsh (Lightning) fighter and the Dorna (Lark) jet trainer. The former resembles a10-20% scaled-up version of the two-seat Northrop F-5 with an 8,000kg (17,700lb) maximum take-off weight. It is thought to be powered by two Klimov RD33 engines (the same as the RSK MiG-29 Fulcrum, which is in Iranian service) and equipped with Russian systems and avionics including the Phazotron Topaz radar.

Source: Flight International