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Saudi Arabia

Royal Saudi Naval Forces


F-2000 class frigate of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces

Courtesy Armed Forces Office, Royal Saudi Arabian Embassy, Washington

The development of the navy as a guardian force in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea dates from 1974 when the Saudi Naval Expansion Program (SNEP) was initiated with the assistance of the United States. Previously, the navy had only a few obsolete patrol boats, landing craft, and utility boats. As of 1992, the main combat vessels were four guided-missile frigates and four corvettes, nine missile-armed fast attack craft, and four minesweepers.

Between 1980 and 1983, the United States supplied four PCG-1 corvettes (870 tons) each armed with eight Harpoon antiship missiles in addition to six torpedo tubes. Nine fast attack craft, also delivered in the early 1980s, were similarly equipped with Harpoon missiles. The principal combat ships of the navy were four French F-2000 frigates (2,870 tons) commissioned in 1985 and 1986, each armed with a Dauphin helicopter, eight Otomat antiship missiles having a range of 160 kilometers, torpedo tubes, and a 100mm gun. In the same contract with France were two logistic support ships, twenty-four Dauphin helicopters, most armed with AS-15 antiship missiles, and support programs for training and maintenance. Saudi Arabia had contracted to purchase three Lafayette-type frigates (3,700 tons) from the French, armed with Exocet antiship missiles, and a 100mm gun. The Lafayettes were scheduled to enter into service after 1995. Discussions had been held with France and other countries for the supply of up to eight submarines. The large arms agreement with Britain in 1988 resulted in a contract for three Sandown-class minesweepers to be delivered between 1991 and 1993 (see table 15, Appendix).

Naval personnel strength, which was less than 1,000 in 1974, had reached 9,500 by 1991, including 1,500 marines. The marines were organized as an infantry regiment and were equipped with 140 armored vehicles of Spanish manufacture. It was reported in 1991 that an expansion of the marine corps was contemplated and new inventory requirements were being prepared.

The main naval headquarters were located at Riyadh. The navy was organized into the Western Fleet, with headquarters at Jiddah on the Red Sea, and the Eastern Fleet, with headquarters at Al Jubayl on the Persian Gulf. All four frigates were based in the Red Sea and the four corvettes in the Persian Gulf. Other naval facilities were located at Yanbu, Ad Dammam, and Ras al Mishab. The port of Ad Dammam had a large military sea terminal that proved fully adequate to handle United States and other cargoes during the buildup preceding the Persian Gulf War. The two main bases at Jiddah and Al Jubayl were constructed under SNEP. They were similar to the military cities of the army, with hardened command centers, family housing, schools, mosques, shopping centers, and recreational facilities for naval personnel and their families, in addition to maintenance, logistics, and training facilities.

Data as of December 1992