145. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State and the Department of Defense1

585. Subject: Saudi Desire to Acquire F–15 Aircraft. Ref Jidda 0127.2

1. Ambassador and Defense Attache met with MinDef Sultan on Jan 19. Amb Porter mentioned recent Saudi references to their interest in acquiring new aircraft. He added that this subject would be studied by the new administration. MinDef Sultan replied that this was not a new subject, since it had been discussed with SecState Kissinger over a year ago and an agreement had been concluded.3 Kissinger had concurred that it was necessary for the SAG to replace outmoded aircraft with F–14’s, F–15’s or F–16’s. It was agreed, MinDef said, that SAG would send a committee of aviators and technicians to the U.S. to examine the aircraft and to determine which was most suitable for Saudi Arabian needs. This was done. One month ago the decision was made that the SAG would require the new aircraft a year and a half from now, and a letter had been prepared requesting them. Specifically, SAG will request 50 F–15’s, to include 40 fighters and 10 of two seat configuration for trainers. He is ready to deliver the letter.

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2. Amb said this information was helpful and would be useful in briefing the new USG, but requested that Sultan delay sending us the letter, awaiting further word. Sultan indicated he had no objection to waiting, but that he would appreciate guidance as soon as possible. MinDef Sultan requested that any further word be provided before Feb 1, since SAG wished to send the letter some time between Feb 1 and Feb 15. Amb Porter assured the MinDef of his continued interest in the matter and said he would reply as soon as possible.

3. Comment: From his reference to SecState Kissinger’s visit, it is clear that MinDef Sultan feels the USG has made a commitment to provide the SAG with advanced fighter aircraft. Indeed, DepSecDef Clements reinforced that view during his visit in Oct 76,4 stating that the SAG could purchase whichever advanced fighter—including the F–15—they preferred.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770024–0796. Secret. Sent for information to USCINCEUR and CHUSMTM Dhahran.
  2. In telegram 127 from Jidda, January 5, the Embassy reported on a meeting during which Sultan informed U.S. officials that King Khalid and Crown Prince Fahd had selected the F–15 “as the advanced fighter aircraft for the Royal Saudi Air Force.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770004–0659)
  3. Documentation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–9, Part 2, Documents on the Middle East Region, 1973–1976.
  4. Clements visited Jidda October 21, 1976. Documentation on his visit is scheduled for publication ibid.
  5. Saudi Defense Minister Sultan again expressed his desire to reach an agreement with the United States to sell F–15s to Saudi Arabia during a January 24 meeting, which the Embassy described in telegram 696 from Jidda, January 26. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770028–0540)