The Sale of Sixty F-15s to Saudi Arabia

Gao ID: 105719 May 4, 1978

An analysis of the proposed sale of F-15 aircrafts to Saudi Arabia was based on the 1974 Department of Defense (DOD) survey of Saudi Arabia's defense needs, the March 1978 DOD analysis supporting the F-15 sale, and a study by the Department of State of the military balance and military technology capacities in the Persian Gulf region. The information obtained indicated that: (1) the Saudis do have a valid need to replace aging aircraft; (2) the F-15 is the only readily available U.S. aircraft that meets the criteria established by the Saudi Arabian Government, i.e., two engines, single crew, all weather look down-shoot down radar and missile; and (3) the proposed Middle East arms sales package will not have a significant impact, in terms of numbers of aircraft, on the balance of power in that area. Events leading to the proposed sale were outlined from a June 1974 DOD survey of the Saudis' defense forces to a formal request by the Saudis on May 15, 1977, for 60 F-15 aircrafts and the DOD August 1977 statement advising Secretary Vance that the sale was considered appropriate. The key factor in the DOD selection of the F-15 rather than other options considered was that it required a lower number of trained or trainable personnel. From this standpoint, GAO questioned the selection of the F-15 rather than additional quantities of F-5 aircrafts. Of three available U.S. aircraft, the F-15 has the greatest overall air defense capability, but there are questions as to whether it can overcome radar coverage deficiencies. Nonmilitary factors that could influence the decision are the effects of Saudi decisions on oil and support of the U.S. dollar, its purchase and needs from other countries, and financial returns for the sale.

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