Saudi Arabia orders PC-21, Hawk trainers


The Royal Saudi Air Force has ordered 55 PC-21 turboprop trainers from Pilatus, as well as 22 Hawk jet trainers from BAE Systems as part of its next-generation military pilot training scheme.

Pilatus on Friday said the deal includes an integrated ground based training system and a comprehensive logistics support package. This makes it by far the biggest ever order in the history of Pilatus, the company said.

Following agreement between the Governments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, under the Saudi British Defence Cooperation Programme (SBDCP), deliveries of PC-21s, ground based training systems and the logistics support package are scheduled to commence in 2014. The aircraft will provide basic flying training in Riyadh to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) and will replace the PC-9.

Twenty-five years have passed since the initial batch of Pilatus PC-9 training aircraft were delivered to the RSAF under an agreement with BAE Systems. “After so many years of sterling service the RSAF has selected the PC-21 aircraft and ground based training system following a thorough evaluation both here in Stans and under hot weather conditions in Riyadh Saudi Arabia,” Pilatus said. The RSAF currently flies 47 PC-9s.

After Switzerland, Singapore and the UAE, Saudi Arabia is the fourth country to procure the PC-21 aircraft. The order is part of a 1.6 billion pound (US$2.5 billion) deal with BAE Systems to supply trainer aircraft. On Wednesday BAE Systems said the 77-aircraft deal also includes training equipment and other support services. The Hawks will be delivered from 2016.

Saudi Arabia’s official news agency SPA quoted an unnamed official at the Saudi defence ministry as saying the Hawks would help train “the Saudi air force to be able to use the fighter jets … efficiently”. The Royal Saudi Air Force currently flies 45 Hawk 65/65As.

Commenting on the announcement, Guy Griffiths, BAE Systems Group Managing Director International said: “We are honoured that BAE Systems has been awarded this contract to provide the Royal Saudi Air Force with aircraft and training equipment to meet their future aircrew training needs. We have a long history in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and working with Pilatus, we will provide the RSAF with the best training platforms to meet their requirements.
“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.”

Earlier this year, BAE said its chances of delivering profit growth in 2012 hinged on talks to finalise a range of contracts with Saudi Arabia in a year marked by tight government defence budgets.

In 2007 Saudi Arabia – the world’s top oil exporter – signed the contract with BAE to buy 72 Typhoon aircraft, 24 of which have been delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force. The Salam deal, as it is known, is worth around 4.5 billion pounds.

Britain’s defence ministry said the deal would provide the Royal Saudi Air Force with “cutting edge officer and aircrew training … to support the introduction and operation of its growing fleet of fourth generation Typhoon fighter aircraft.”
“The agreement on the Hawks and nod to the fourth generation fighters – the Typhoon – are another sign that all is well under the government-to-government Salam programme, with this contract potentially incrementally positive,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Stallard.
“Agreement on the Typhoon price escalation remains BAE’s key focus for 2012.”

In December the United States signed a US$29.4 billion deal to sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in a long-expected move that the Obama administration said would boost Gulf security amid tension with Iran.