The U.S. Air Force program office responsible for F-15 foreign military sales expects to award contracts late next year valued at $2.5 billion for maintenance support of the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) F-15 fleet. The service has invited both U.S. and foreign-owned companies to bid on the “sustainment” work, which has until now been performed by a Saudi-owned firm.
The RSAF in the coming years will operate about 230 of the twin-engine fighters, according to the Air Force, a number that includes around 70 F-15C/D air superiority fighters from the 1980s and 70 multi-role S models produced in the mid-1990s.
In December 2011, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. concluded a record $29 billion arms package that, among other weapons, called for Boeing to supply 84 new F-15SA (Saudi Advanced) fighters to the kingdom. The S models will be upgraded to the SA configuration.
A Saudi firm, Riyadh-based Al-Raha Group for Technical Services (RGTS), has provided maintenance support for the RSAF’s existing F-15 fleet. Changing that practice, the Saudi government has asked the U.S. to make the work available to other companies, said Brittany Prouty, Air Force lead program manager for F-15 foreign military sales.
All three variants, including the F-15SAs now being delivered, are included in the support contract. “Saudi Arabia initially requested that we go to RGTS for all of our sustainment-type activities,” Prouty said. “They’ve now asked that we compete these activities. I think they’re looking ultimately to save a little bit of money.”
Responding to a July notice by the Air Force Material Command, about 50 companies attended an industry day the service held in early August at the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. The service outlined the requirements for Saudi F-15 sustainment and how it planned to contract for them, and heard back from industry on how it could improve the process.
The work includes printing technical orders, stocking depots and work benches, repairing aircraft and support equipment and providing personnel to support supply activities in Saudi Arabia.
The Air Force had initially considered dividing the sustainment work into five separate acquisitions. As a result of the industry day, however, it has decided to consolidate the activities into two contracts focused on repair and supply.
“One of the biggest things that came from the industry day, and it’s actually something that they brought up, is that a lot of the requirements behind our individual contracts were very similar because they were all sustainment-type activities,” Prouty explained.
“Something that we took from industry and talked through with our acquisition gurus here at Robins was integrating some of these requirements for ease of contracting and cost savings where it made sense to do,” she added.
Contracts in 2016
On October 2, the Air Force released presolicitation notices for Saudi F-15 repair services and F-15 supply services. According to Prouty, the service expects to award contracts between August and December 2016. “We’re still working toward something similar to that, [a period] that’s a little more aggressive than we typically work toward,” she said. “We’re trying to do things as quickly as we possibly can.” As outlined to industry, the contracts will likely have terms of between five and seven years.
At the Air Force Association Air & Space conference held in September outside of Washington, D.C., Boeing indicated that it would be interested in that business. Asked if either Boeing or Alsalam Aircraft Co., the Saudi maintenance, repair and overhaul business that Boeing partly owns, will bid for the F-15 sustainment work, a program executive answered in the affirmative.
“Anywhere there are F-15s in the world to be maintained and supported, including in Saudi Arabia, Boeing is always involved in bidding for that work if it’s a competition, or supporting those jets when they first get fielded,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing vice president of F-15 programs. “Currently in Saudi, that is the game plan. Once those [F-15SA] jets first get out there, we will be providing support in the near-term years. After that, it’s still in a formative stage.”
In a separate development, Boeing announced in August that it had signed an agreement with Saudi Aerospace Engineering Industries and Alsalam to create the Saudi Rotorcraft Support Center, with locations in Riyadh and Jeddah. The joint venture will support commercial and military rotorcraft in Saudi Arabia, including Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, CH-47 Chinook transports and AH-6i light attack and reconnaissance helicopters.
“The Saudi Rotorcraft Support Center builds upon our decades-long partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Leanne Caret, Boeing president of Global Services and Support. “When it’s fully operational, the Saudi military will have a national asset that affordably enhances the readiness of their rotorcraft personnel and fleet.”