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Saudi Arabia

Cooperation with Other Countries

Although the United States was the dominant foreign influence in the post-World War II development of the Saudi military establishment, the kingdom has regularly awarded contracts to other governments or to private corporations in other countries to avoid complete dependence on a single supplier. Britain and France have been the other two major recipients of Saudi contracts for weapons and equipment, maintenance, training, and construction of facilities. According to ACDA statistics, Britain was actually the largest supplier of arms from 1985 to 1989, providing military goods and services totaling US$7.7 billion. France was second with $US7.0 billion and the United States was third with US$5.0 billion. Imports from China were US$2.5 billion, arising principally from the sale of the CSS-2 missile system. Among the major French transactions was a US$4.5 billion contract disclosed in 1984 for the Shahine mobile antiaircraft missile defense system to guard the Saudi oil fields and other sensitive targets. In addition to sales of tanks and other armored equipment in the 1970s, France was a leading supplier of ships and helicopters.

During World War II, Britain, which had been the dominant foreign power in the Middle East for many years, and the United States coordinated their efforts to train and modernize Abd al Aziz's small armed forces. British training missions were active in the kingdom, and some Saudis were sent to Britain for military schooling. After the war, the United States took over most of the training and modernization of the Saudi military, but Britain continued to share in the contracts for arms, equipment, and services. For many years, a majority of Saudi combat aircraft were British Lightnings and Strikemasters manufactured by BAe, which had long-standing contracts to provide services and maintenance to the Royal Saudi Air Force. The company also operated the King Faisal Air Academy and the Technical Studies Institute.

In 1986, after being thwarted in its efforts to purchase additional F-15s from the United States, Saudi Arabia responded by announcing the purchase of Tornado fighter-bombers and interceptors built by a British-led consortium, as well as Hawk jet trainers and Pilatus training aircraft. The advanced Tornadoes were offered without the restrictions on basing and armaments that the United States had imposed on its sale of F-15s to reduce the risk of their being used against Israel. In July 1988, the Saudis announced an agreement in principle to purchase US$20 to US$30 billion worth of aircraft and other military equipment and construction services from Britain over a ten-year period. The 1986 and 1988 agreements were sometimes referred to by the code names, Al Yamamah I and Al Yamamah II. Under Al Yamamah II, Saudi Arabia signaled its intention to acquire additional Tornadoes, jet trainers, British versions of the Blackhawk helicopter, and minesweepers for the navy. The cost of the huge arms agreement was to be offset by proceeds from Saudi oil shipments and by British investments in military and civilian production plants in Saudi Arabia.

Under an agreement announced in 1983, Spain has supplied Saudi Arabia with CASA C-212 transport aircraft, built as a joint venture between Spain and Indonesia, as well as other equipment. In 1990 negotiations with Germany over the sale of 300 Leopard II tanks reportedly failed when Germany decided not to proceed in light of its policy against arms sales to areas of tension and what it viewed as its moral obligation to the state of Israel.

Data as of December 1992