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Wednesday, October 7, 2009     FOLLOW UPDATES ON TWITTER

Saudis weighs major F-15 buy as Iran advances

WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia is negotiating another major order of F-15 fighter-jet from the United States.   

"Growing security concerns over Gulf neighbor and perennial troublemaker Iran are pushing the Saudis to upgrade their air fleet with a particular emphasis on precision strike aircraft," the U.S. defense website DoD Buzz reported.

Industry sources said Riyad has been discussing the procurement of up to 72 advanced F-15 fighters. They said the Saudi order could include the purchase of Boeing's latest stealth design for the F-15, titled Silent Eagle.

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DoD Buzz, citing industry and defense sources, said the Defense Department would approve any Saudi request for the F-15. The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which processes requests for major weapons procurement, has not confirmed the Saudi interest.

Boeing has reported interest by Israel and Saudi Arabia of the F-15 Silent Eagle, which remains in the design stage. Silent Eagle was meant to comprise an F-15E platform modified to reduce its radar signature. The platform would also contain internal conformal fuel tanks.

Saudi Arabia has been operating about 150 F-15s, procured in deals in the 1970s and 1990s. In 2008, Riyad received approval for Joint Direct Attack Munitions tail kits for the F-15 fleet.

The sources said Riyad has sought to modernize its F-15 fleet as well as bolster defense relations with the United States. The Saudis have also been preparing for the first deliveries of the Eurofighter Typhoon as part of an $8.9 billion deal with BAE Systems.

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