Oman’s Air Force Upgrades: From Jaguars to F-16s & Eurofighters

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Oman’s Air Force Upgrades: From Jaguars to F-16s & Eurofighters
Sep 16, 2014 16:00 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff


RAFO F-16Cs w. CFTs
(click to view full)
Oman is located on the eastern Arabian peninsula next to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and across from Persia. It remains a very strategic country, controlling the Strait of Hormuz’ western bank, and providing an overwatch position for both the entrance to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean near Africa. The Royal Air Force of Oman (al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Sultanat Oman) currently flies F-16 Block 50 fighters, which complement the RAFO’s 18 Jaguar strike aircraft.

Sultan Qaboos’ air force was looking to replace its aging Jaguars, and made inquiries about buying 4+ generation fighters like Eurofighters or even JAS-39 Gripens for this purpose. A formal August 2010 export request for 18 more F-16s raised the possibility of a different approach, but it was actually a both-and strategy. After an F-16 contract was inked, BAE received an RFP for its Eurofighter, which also turned into a contract. With these buys, plus a handful of new jet trainers, the RAFO’s fighter modernization looks to be complete.





The Persian Gulf
(click to view full)
Oman (pron. Uman) is located on the eastern Arabian peninsula next to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and across from Persia. It has historically been a multi-ethnic society, and its combination of a bleak interior and near-coast mountains have served as a formidable barrier for would-be conquerors. The moderate Omani Ibadi
form of Islam has been one result. An outward looking focus, and long history of trade, also followed.

In the 1640s, an alliance between the Al-Yaribi tribe and Britain defeated the Portuguese, who had controlled Muscat. Afterward, it led to an Omani empire stretching to Zanzibar and beyond, reaching down Africa’s eastern coast and across the Strait of Hormuz to the port of Gwadur (now Pakistan’s Gwadar).

The end of the slave trade collapsed that empire, but Oman found a new resource: geography. Even in its collapsed state, Oman still controlled the western Musandam Peninsula of the Strait of Hormuz, and lay across the Persian Gulf’s sea approaches. Britain, once an ally, became more of a full guarantor. The critical telegraph cable from Britain to India landed in Oman. Which is how British troops posted to the utterly desolate Jazirat al Maqlab island, located “around the bend” of the Musandam, gave the English language a new slang phrase for madness.

Relations with Britain have remained close through the windfalls of the Middle East’s oil and gas bonanza. Oman’s traditional protector was instrumental in defeating a significant Marxist insurgency from 1965-1976, in a relatively unheralded campaign that still offers interesting lessons in multinational counterinsurgency.

Sultan Qaboos’ country remains strategically important, and official political and military relations with America and Britain are close. The Strait of Hormuz remains important to Oman’s military preparations, but the nation has also played a quietly useful role in counter-piracy activities around the western Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa. The RAFO’s forthcoming C-295 MPA
maritime patrol planes will help them extend that role, replacing their aged Seavan fleet.

Iran is regarded very warily, but without overt hostility. Unofficially, Oman’s location makes it the embarkation point for many of the smuggled foreign civilian trade goods, foodstuffs, etc. that make up Iran’s internal black market.

The Royal Air Force of Oman

French Jaguar
(click to view full)
The al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Sultanat Oman (RAFO) currently has 3 full fighter squadrons. RAFO 10 squadron finished its conversion from Jaguar strike aircraft
to F-16C/D Block 50/52+ fighters in 2006, but 8 sq and 20 sq continue to operate the old Jaguars, as this extreme low-level flight video shows. The fighters are all formally based at Thumrayt in the southwest, near the border with Yemen and away from the entrance to the Gulf. With that said, they have been known to operate from Seeb air base in the northeast, near the capital of Muscat.

Masirah air base on Oman’s central coast houses RAFO 6 squadron’s mixed set of single-seat Hawk 203 light fighter/ advanced trainer fleet and 2-seat Hawk 103 jet trainers. The base also hosts RAFO 1 squadron’s Super Mushshak primary trainers and Pilatus PC-9M basic trainer aircraft, alongside some of Oman’s Super Lynx Mk.120 search-and-rescue helicopters.


RAFO Hawks
click for video
Once the 8 new Hawks arrive at Masirah, the 4 old Hawk Mk.103 trainers will be phased out in favor of the more advanced Hawk Mk.128 LIFT. The RAFO’s 11 single-seat Hawk 203 fighters are currently used as advanced trainers, and the new Mk.128s could easily replace them, too. On the other hand the Hawk 203s’ APG-66H radars and weapons array give them a dual-role value that could prompt Oman to keep them in service.

Oman has begun building the new Adam air base about 100 miles SW of Muscat. It’s within Oman’s interior, and shielded from the Gulf approaches by a spine of mountains that would become natural sites for air defenses. It’s an excellently protected location that would still allow strong air patrols along Oman’s north and the Straits, and it is widely believed that at least some of the Eurofighters will be housed there.

In December 2012 the Sultanate upgraded its trainer fleet with new Hawks, and bought 12 Eurofighter Typhoons to accompany their F-16 Falcons. The Typhoons will become the country’s high-end air superiority fighters, with a secondary strike role behind the more versatile Falcons. Oman joins their neighbor Saudi Arabia as local Eurofighter operators, and this new regional buy could strengthen the plane’s odds in fellow Gulf Cooperation Council countries the UAE and Qatar.

The December 2011 and December 2012 contracts will give the RAFO a future combat force of 12 Eurofighters and 24 F-16 Block 50s (18 F-16Cs, 6 F-16Ds). Another 6 F-16s are available on option, if the RAFO wants to add to that total.
 

Scorpion

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I wish Jordan and Egypt could get their hands on some of this beautiful bird.
 

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