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Saudi Air Force Tornados

Mon May 18, 2009 3:50 am

Looking through the photos on a.net of Saudi Arabian Air Force Tornado aircraft, I noted plenty of pictures of the Tornado IDS but none of the Tornado ADV. I may be mistaken here, but didn't the Saudi Air Force purchase the Tornado ADV and didn't they later decide it was no match for the F-15? I recall reading somewhere those planes were to be converted to another role but don't remember seeing or hearing anything more after that. Does anyone have current information on the Saudi ADVs?
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RE: Saudi Air Force Tornados

Mon May 18, 2009 8:33 am

From Scramble.nl:

The Tornado ADV (Air Defence Variant) were used by 29sq but they were declared wfu in 2007 and have been stored at Tabuk ever since. They might return to their country of origin though, when they are exchanged with BAE Systems as part of the Eurofighter Typhoon orders.

wfu=withdrawn from use

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RE: Saudi Air Force Tornados

Mon May 18, 2009 8:40 am

24 should be in service. I think the ADV has poor close range AA capabilities. Its more a long range interceptor. With an ADV you don't go head to head short range with an F16, Mig29, F18, Su27, Mirage 2000, F15 etc. The F15 offers both good long and short range AA capabilities. So the need for the ADV seems limitted.

The IDS IMO seems to have regained popularity and is surviving the ADV. It's cleared to carry almost all the air-launched weapons in the NATO inventory. Range, speed, warload, 2 engines and a 2 man cockpit has regained popularity in today's complex crisis environments. Weakness remians its limitted A to A self defense capabilities.
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RE: Saudi Air Force Tornados

Mon May 18, 2009 6:35 pm

The Saudi ADV Tornado's were brought since at the time, (1985), the US, under pressure from Israel and it's lobbyists, were campaigning against further F-15 purchases.
They had to fight hard to get the E-3 and tanker aircraft too.

Consider the task, a huge, very sparely populated landmass with potential enemies to the north, east and west of them.
While the F-15's were capable enough here, clearly the Saudi's felt that more fighter/interceptor aircraft in that basic class were needed, now Washington was becoming problematic it seemed.
At the time, the Iran-Iraq war was running and on, raising tensions further.

The Mirage 2000 was a fine enough aircraft, but did not have the endurance for covering this vast area.
(Dassault tried to get the Saudi's to fund the scaled up, twin engined Mirage 4000 one of which was flown as a prototype. Whatever the Saudi's thought of that, clearly an operational Mirage 4000 would be years away).

The Saudi's also wanted to bolster their attack capability, based back then on F-5E's.
Try getting a longer range bomb dropper past the Washington lobbyists though!
So the Saudi's turned back to those who had originally put Saudi Arabia into the supersonic jet game 20 years before, with BAC Lightnings.
They also still provided the trainers, both aircraft and people.

So in getting the Tornado IDS, also getting a version which had powerful radar, heavy armament and plenty of range and endurance, when more F-15's could not be guaranteed, seemed logical.
Post the Invasion of Kuwait, US arms restrictions were lifted, probably for good.
But that was 5 years away in 1985.

Tornado F.3 gets a bad rap, but it's critics miss the point.
It was designed specifically for the UK AD requirement, which included a major chunk of the Eastern Atlantic as well as UK airspace.
The targets would be bombers, Bears, Badgers, Bisons, Blinders, Backfires and SU-24 Fencers.
Endurance, ability to operate in all weathers in a heavy ECM environment, were important.
Here, a F-16 or even a F-18 would have fallen rather short, whatever their other virtues.

I doubt there were ever high hopes for Tornado F.3 exports, being so specific for the Cold War UK AD mission, so the Saudi F.3 deal was a bonus.
But considering the Saudi requirement, it actually fitted in rather well.
Complementing the F-15's, which of course were proper dog-fighters, even if just allowing the Eagles to do their stuff while the F.3's maintained CAP's covering both gaps and a second line of defence.

That they have been withdrawn after 20 years of service is no great surprise.
Typhoons are coming, after all.
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RE: Saudi Air Force Tornados

Tue May 19, 2009 3:26 am

Thanks, GDB, for the comprehensive answer. Your take on the Tornado F.3's critics rings with a lot of truth.
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