Saudi Arabia

Almost all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries devote a large share of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to military spending. Saudi Arabia is no exception. Saudi Arabia’s spending on defence has increased significantly in the last two decades and as a result this GCC country has developed one of the world’s most advanced military arsenals, with the majority of related equipment being supplied by the US, France and the UK. According to data provided by the Ministry of Finance, in 2016, Saudi Arabia was to allocate the biggest amount of the national budget, on “Military and Security Services”, for a total of 213.4 billion Saudi Arabian Riyal (SR) (approximately 56.9 billion US dollars). Education and training with 191.7 billion SR (approximately 51.1 billion US dollars), and Health & Social Development with 104.9 billion SR (approximately 28 billion US dollars) were to follow.

Almost all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries devote a large share of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to military spending. Saudi Arabia is no exception. Saudi Arabia’s spending on defence has increased significantly in the last two decades and as a result this GCC country has developed one of the world’s most advanced military arsenals, with the majority of related equipment being supplied by the US, France and the UK. According to data provided by the Ministry of Finance, in 2016, Saudi Arabia was to allocate the biggest amount of the national budget, on “Military and Security Services”, for a total of 213.4 billion Saudi Arabian Riyal (SR) (approximately 56.9 billion US dollars). Education and training with 191.7 billion SR (approximately 51.1 billion US dollars), and Health & Social Development with 104.9 billion SR (approximately 28 billion US dollars) were to follow.  

Compared to 2015, the Saudi defence budget was to be cut by about 30% in 2016 as spending on the sector was to fall from some SAR307.0 billion (81.9 billion US dollars) in 2015 to SAR213.4 billion in 2016 (as indicated in previous). This is understood to be largely attributed to the falling prices of oil and thus, the resulting revenue shortfalls for the country.  

In the last decade, Saudi Arabia carried out various major defence procurements, including among others, the purchase of several F-15, C-130J-30, Eurofighter Typhoon and KC-130J aircraft, UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters, Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV) and air missile defence systems.  

The defence “shopping spree” of Saudi Arabia, began in 1985, when a Boeing-led consortium won the Peace Shield program. Peace Shield was a state-of-the-art C3I system developed for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF), at the time. The Peace Shield system linked the networks of the Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF), the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) and Royal Saudi Air Defence Force (RSADF).

Another important defence acquisition program of the country, was the “Al Yamamah” that was initiated in September of 1985. It involved the supply and support of Tornado, Hawk and PC-9 aircraft and specialised naval vessels and various infrastructure works to Saudi Arabia. The UK Government's prime contractor for the project, was BAE SYSTEMS pIc. The subsequent sale of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia in 2006, was also led by BAE SYSTEMS, as an ‘extension’ to the Al Yamamah program.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia procured three Al Riyadh (F3000S) Class multipurpose anti-air warfare frigates, which were built by DCN (now DCNS) of France. The frigates, based on DCN's stealth frigate design, are about 25% larger than the standard French La Fayette Class frigate and have additional capabilities, for example enhanced anti-air warfare and anti-submarine capability, to achieve the operational requirements of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces. The first of the three frigates, was officially handed to Royal Saudi Naval Forces in the third quarter 2002.

More recently, in August of 2016, the US Department of State approved the sale of 153 M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and some 20 engineering vehicles (M88) to Saudi Arabia in a deal estimated at some 1.15 billion US dollar. Saudi Arabia had already procured some 315 M1A2 tanks in the mid-1990s, which it later began to upgrade, as of the late 2000’s.
 
Further, in late 2016, the first F-15s of the latest configuration, on order from the country since 2010, in a 30 Billion US dollars deal, began to arrive. Overall some 154 aircraft were to be delivered by Boeing, some as upgraded versions of older aircraft (70), some newly built of the production line (84), in addition to a number of supporting equipment, services and weapons.