The Al Quwwat al Jawwiya as Saudiya (Royal Saudi Air Force, or RSAF) is an important user of the Eagle.
The Saudi Arabian government at Riyadh initially ordered 47 F-15Cs and 15 F-15Ds under the Foreign Military Sales project Peace Sun as replacements for the BAC Lightning interceptor. The delivery of F-15s to Saudi Arabia has always been controversial, with Israel and its supporters in the US Congress being unhappy about such an advanced warplane being in the hands of a potential adversary. Although the US Congress eventually did approve the sale, a limit was imposed in 1980 which restricted Saudi Arabia to having no more than 60 Eagles in the country at any one time. The controversy over the sale to Saudi Arabia was eased somewhat by Saudi assurances that the planes would be used strictly for air defense, and the limitation of 60 was later abandoned. However, at first there were restrictions placed on the delivery of the associated conformal fuel tanks to Saudi Arabia, which would have brought Israel within range.
Bearing US markings, some of the early RSAF Eagles were used at Luke AFB to train a cadre of Saudi air and ground crews. The first F-15C/D aircraft reached IOC with RSAF units in August of 1981. In Saudi Arabia, F-15Cs and Ds were supplied to No 5 Squadron at King Fahad AFB in Taif, No 6 at King Khaled AFB in Khamis Mushayt, and No 13 at King Abdul Aziz AFB at Dharan.
On June 5, 1984, RSAF Eagles from No 6 Squadron were involved in an air battle with Iranian-piloted F-4E Phantoms which were threatening Saudi oil fields. Two of the intruders were shot down by Sparrows, marking the first (and so far only) encounter in which McDonnell-built aircraft fought each other.
Although the RSAF was more than happy with its F-15C/Ds, US Congressional opposition to the delivery of further combat aircraft to Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom's desire to diversify its supply of military hardware led to a decision to order Panavia Tornado IDS strike aircraft and ADV interceptors from Britain.
In 1989, Saudi Arabia again tried to purchase additional F-15s, and Congressional approval was sought for the delivery of 12 F-15C/Ds in 1991-92. However, political sensibilities at the time were such that the approval was not given.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 changed everything. The limit of only sixty F-15 airplanes in country at any one time was quickly dropped, and 24 F-15C/D Eagles were rushed to the RSAF from USAF stocks. These subsequently became the core of the newly-formed 42 Squadron at Dhahran.
During Desert Shield/Desert Storm, RSAF F-15s shared combat air patrols along with British Tornado F.Mk 3s and American F-15Cs. On January 24, 1991, Captain Ayehid Salah al-Shamrani of the No 13 Squadron of the RSAF shot down a pair of Iraqi Mirage F1s that were flying along the Persian Gulf coast. These Mirages may have been carrying Exocet missiles in preparation for an attack on Coalition naval units.
In mid-1991, McDonnell began filling the order for twelve F-15s that had been placed by Saudi Arabia before the Gulf War began. Nine of them were for F-15Cs, 3 for F-15Ds.
Saudi Arabia also was interested in acquiring the F-15E, but the aircraft was deemed too sensitive for export. As an alternative, Saudi Arabia requested the delivery 24 F-15Fs, which were similar to the F-15E but without the second crew member and without some of the more advanced avionics deemed too sensitive for export. However, in 1993, the Royal Saudi Air Force was given permission to purchase 72 slightly downgraded versions of the F-15E Strike Eagle, initially designated F-15XP but now known as F-15S. A total of 72 were placed on order under Peace Sun IX. The first example took off on its maiden flight on June 19, 1995. Production was planned at a rate of one per month, with the 72nd and last F-15S being delivered in 1999.
The following RSAF squadrons operate the F-15
No. 2 Wing (King Abdullah Aziz AB) No. 5 Squadron (F-15C/D) No. 34 Squadron (F-15C/D) No. 3 Wing (King Abdullah Aziz AB) No. 13 Squadron (F-15C/D) No. 92 Squadron (F-15S) No. 5 Wing (King Khalid AB) No. 6 Squadron (F-15S) No. 55 Squadron (F-15S) No. 7 Wing (King Faisal AB) No. 2. Squadron (F-15C/D)