The Royal Saudi Air Force is the most modern armed force in the Middle East.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have a long history of hostility since the 1979 Iranian democratic revolution. It is the result of profound differences in ideology and economic interests between the two Middle Eastern powers. Thanks to its vast oil resources, Saudi Arabia has acquired some of the most modern weapons in the world, becoming Iran’s main counterweight in the region. According to an analysis on national interest, if a conflict breaks out between two rival powers, here are five Saudi weapons Iran should fear.
The Royal Saudi Air Force is the most modern armed force in the Middle East. It is the second force after the US that owns the largest number of F-15 Eagle fighters, both the C adn D air-to-air version and the multirole Strike Eagle variant. The Royal Saudi Air Force currently operates a fleet of 86 F-15C/D Eagle air superiority fighters, which are more than a match for anything Tehran has in its inventory. But Saudi Arabia also has 70 F-15S Strike Eagle multirole fighter-bombers, which can hit targets deep inside Iran. The Royal Saudi Air Force is also in the process of adding 84 new-build F-15SA Strike Eagles to its fleet.
The Royal Saudi Air Force also owns another modern fighter from Europe, the Eurofighter Typhoon, with 72 aircraft. The European jet is an extremely formidable air-to-air fighter, but also packs a potent air-to-ground punch. Estimates show that more than half the contracted number of jets have entered service with the Royal Saudi Air Force. Unlike most previous contracts with the Saudi kingdom, the majority of the aircraft are being assembled locally from kits. The Typhoon would be able to complement the RSAF’s F-15 fleet during an active conflict with Iran.
The Royal Saudi Ground Forces are also lavishly equipped. Its strongest punch is 82 Boeing AH-64D helicopters. The Apache was originally designed in the late 1970s for the U.S. Army to blunt a potential Soviet armored offensive in central Europe. During the first Gulf War, the original AH-64A devastated Iraqi armored forces. However, this helicopter proved ineffective during the 2003 Iraq war. Despite this, the Apache is a formidable weapon against enemy ground forces.
Another expensive land weapon of the Saudi army is the M1A2 Abrams tank, with about 442 units. While not equipped with depleted uranium as part of their armor matrix like U.S. Army tanks, the Saudi’s Abrams are formidable tanks. Indeed, the Saudi tanks are very similar to the U.S. Army’s M1A2 SEP standard, which means the vehicles feature advanced information and networking systems.
Firepower comes from a German-developed 120mm smoothbore cannon with forty-two rounds. A single 12.7mm machine gun and a pair of 7.62 mm M240 machine guns augment the main gun. Overall, the Abrams is more than a match for any tank Iran can field. If the Abrams has a weakness, it is its fuel hungry and maintenance intensive Honeywell AGT1500C gas turbine engine that delivers 1,500 hp.
For the navy, the three Al Riyadh-class frigates constitute Saudi Arabia’s formidable surface weapons. Based on La Fayette-class, the ships carry a pair of eight-cell vertical launch systems for Aster 15 surface-to-air missiles, which can attack aircraft at ranges of about 20 miles at altitudes up to 50,000 feet. The vessels also carry eight MBDA Exocet MM40 Block II anti-ship missiles. An Oto Melara 76mm canon and pair two 20mm guns round out the vessels’ anti-surface armament. Anti-submarines weapons include the DCNS F17 anti-submarine torpedo. The ships are heavily armed for their 4,500-ton displacement, but have a maximum speed of about 24.5 knots.