Warplanes: February 4, 2002


The Saudi Arabians want to upgrade their Tornado GR1 strike aircraft, but will have to make a decision within 6-9 months if they want to capitalize on the British GR4 upgrade program. The last British GR1 will be upgraded to a GR4 in March 2003. The upgrade in avionics, weapons, and other systems will keep the Tornado as Britain's primary strike platform through 2020. The problem is the fluctuating oil price, which makes any Saudi government internal budget debate a tricky matter. Without the upgrade, the Saudi Tornadoes will become less and less effective and harder to maintain. But the Saudis have other aircraft problems. They need to buy more F-15s to replace attrition losses, and a new fighter to replace their ancient F-5 fleet, and they need to buy a new tactical fighter about the end of this decade.--Stephen V Cole


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