RSAF Patch c AB Royal Saudi Air Force Dhahran Air Base F 15 F 5
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RSAF Patch c AB Royal Saudi Air Force Dhahran Air Base F 15 F 5

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RSAF Patch Royal Saudi Air Force Dhahran Air Base 1981 F 15 Eagle F 5 Freedom Fighter Embroidered on twill cut edge 91mm by 95mm three and nine sixteenth inches by three and three quarter inches.

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History

Saudi Arabia and the US signed the Dhahran Air Field Agreement in 1945 for the US to build and operate a military airfield at Dhahran near the Arabian American Oil Company ARAMCO town to help with the war effort with the airfield reverting back to Saudi Arabia three years after the war ends. Although the war ended later in 1945 the US continued construction and agreed an extension of the use of the facility under annual leases in 1948 when the original three year period ended as tensions with the Soviet Union increased and Dhahran airfield was the only airfield in the area which could support USAF B 29 Superfortress bombers. At the same time US Forces presence provided Saudi Arabia with an element of security with its problem neighbours Yemen Iraq and Transjordan. The renewed agreement included the provision of a US military team to Saudi Arabia to consult on the Saudi defences. 

The US military team was upgraded to the US Military Training Mission USMTM and assisted with the expansion of the Saudi Arabian military with pilot training at Dhahran using ten TE 35 Buckaroo primary trainers purchased by Saudi Arabia which were could be armed with machine guns and rocket pods for ground attack. Training of Saudi aircraft maintenance and ground engineer personnel was also provided at Dhahran Air Field. The US provided the RSAF with C 47 Skytrain aircraft for transport operations in 1952 T 6 Texan trainers to augment the training at Dhahran in 1953 and A 26B Invader light bombers in 1955.  

USMTM assisted with the provision of F 86 Sabre fighters in 1957 for which RSAF activated 7 Squadron at Dhahran Air Field to operate them from a portion of the air field tasked with pilot operational conversion and air defence QRA defending the main oil facilities of the Persian Gulf. 15 Squadron was activated at Dhahran Air Field in 1958 equipped with ten T 33A Shooting Star advanced jet training aircraft which had been provided to RSAF following the renewal agreement for the continued use of Dhahran by the US. The Squadron was tasked with advanced jet pilot training of Saudi graduate pilots and with 7 Squadron with its F 86 Sabres formed RSAF Operational Conversion Unit. 

The US lease continued until the USAF handed the air field back to the Saudis in 1962 with the Royal Saudi Air Force taking over the facility and renaming it Dhahran Air Base tasked with air defence tactical and strategic support for the Eastern Province the oil installations on the Persian Gulf and nearby regions as well as providing aviation related technical training to RSAF personnel. 

Royal Saudi Air Force Lightning Conversion Unit was established at King Abdul Aziz Air Base Dhahran in 1968 equipped with Magic Carpet contract Lightning F 52 fighter bombers and T 54 fighter bomber trainers released by 6 Squadrons transitioned to new Saudi specified Lightning F 53 fighter bombers and Lightning T 55 two seat fighter bomber and training aircraft under the Magic Palm programme. LCU received four T 55 trainer Lightnings from the RAFs 226 OCU in 1969 when their contract to train RSAF aircrew in the UK ended. Lightning OCU deployed assets to carry out rocket and bomb ground attack missions with F 53 against Yemeni forces from December 1969 to May 1970 during the border dispute with South Yemen. Hosilities ceased later in 1970 when the Republicans and the Royalists formed a coalition government and the country was reformed into Arab Republic of Yemen. 

15 Squadron retired its T 33s and reequipped with F 5B two seat trainer Freedom Fighters in 1972 from the Peace Hawk I programme continuing its advanced training role handling new pilots who had completed 200 hrs basic training on BAC 167 Strikemasters. 15 Squadron reequipped with F 5E single seat and F 5F two seat trainer Tiger fighter aircraft to its fleet in 1975 under Peace Hawk II transferring most of its F 5B trainers to 7 Squadron the F 5 OCU and took over the ground strike attack tasking previously assigned to the RSAF Lightning Squadrons and the LCU. The USMTM Detachment at Dhahran provided USAF instructor pilots and visiting aggressor pilots for training on Soviet aerial tactics. Lightning Conversion Unit was redesignated 13 Squadron in March 1977 and provided aircrew conversion training as well as training for interception and ground attack with the F 53 and the T 55 where a weapons officer would occupy the second seat and tactical reconnaissance as an operational Squadron. 13 Squadron began Dissimilar Air Combat Training with RSAF F 5E fighter units in 1978 including 7 and 15 Squadrons which regularly deployed to other RSAF bases for exercises.  

Dhahran Air Base was on continuous high alert following the commencement of the Iran Iraq War on 22 September 1980 to protect Saudi Arabia its territorial waters and its sea navigation routes in the Gulf with 13 Squadron standing QRA interception alert and Combat Air Patrols supported by 7 Squadron. The USAFs 552 Airborne Warning and Control Wing immediately deployed E 3 AWACS aircraft aircrew and support personnel with a compliment of KC 135 Tankers and ground based Tactical Air Control Systems to Riyadh AB with a detachment at Dhahran AB as Operation Elf One European Liaison Force One to provide around the clock airborne radar coverage of the Gulf and to augment Saudi Arabian air defences during the war.  

7 and 15 Squadron personnel participated in Red Flag 81 1 at Nellis AFB Nevada with the RSAF deployment using four F 5Bs six F 5Es and two F 5Fs borrowed from USAF 425 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron with its own ground personnel assisting the deployments 12 pilots carrying out 135 of the planned 140 sorties. 15 Squadron relocated to Khamis Mushait Air Base in 1981 providing ground strike attack cover with its F 5E and F 5F as 6 Squadron transitioned from Lightnings to F 15C and F 15D Eagle fighters. 

13 Squadron transferred its remaining Lightning aircraft to 2 Squadron at Tabuk Air Base and became the first RSAF unit to begin equipping with McDonnell Douglas F 15 C single seat and D two seat Eagle Air Superiority fighters in August 1981 under the Peace Sun programme remaining at Dhahran Air Base. At the same time Royal Saudi Air Force Weapons School was established at Dhahran AB with USMTM Detachment assistance and US instructor pilots to train RSAF fighter pilots. 

With Dhahran AB chosen as the main operating base for the Tornado IDS aircraft ordered under Al Yamamah I contract pilots and personnel were deployed to the RAFs newly activated Royal Saudi Training Flight at Trinational Tornado Training Establishment TTTE RAF Cottesmore UK to undertake courses commencing on 11 October 1985. 7 Squadron converted from F 5s to Tornado IDS becoming the Tornado OCU aircraft in July 1986 with its F 5bs and F 5Es distributed to other RSAF Squadrons. 35 Squadron was activated at Dhahran Air Base in 1986 equipped with two Jetstream 31M aircraft to train its Tornado Navigator and Weapons Systems Officer students which had been initially carried out by Bae Warton. 21 and 37 Squadrons was activated at Dhahran Air Base in October 1987 equipped with Hawk Mk 65 advanced fast jet training and combat strike aircraft under the Al Yamamah I programme with the UK. Both Squadrons were primarily tasked with advanced fast jet pilot training fighter weapons and strike attack training and Weapon System Operator training with a secondary role of interception and strike attack in the event of hostilities.  

The tempo of operations from Dhahran AB reduced with ending of the Iran Iraq War after the truce of 20 July 1988 and the USAFs Elf 1 Detachment at Dhahran was withdrawn. One of 35 Squadrons Jetstream aircraft crashed on approach to Dhahran AB on 14 October 1989 with all five personnel on board lost leaving the Squadron with one Jetstream 31M. 66 Squadron was activated at Dhahran Air Base in 1990 initially equipped with three Tornado IDS received under the Al Yamamah I programme in interdiction and suppression of enemy air defences SEAD roles. 

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 Dhahran AB became a major Coalition operational combat base with deployed RAF Tornado Squadrons F 15Cs from USAF 1 Tactical Fighter Wing Provisional and the US Armys 101 Airborne Division and its Aviation elements. RSAF units were strengthened with 13 Squadron joined by F 15s from 6 Squadron TDY deployed from Khamis Mushait AB and along with Dhahrans Tornado aircraft undertook combat air patrols along the border with Kuwait and Iraq to counter Iraqs threatened attacks on Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield. 13 Squadron undertook 1932 sorties and 5582 hours in support of Operation Desert Shield to defend the Northern and Eastern frontiers of Saudi Arabia.  

Combat operations continued during Operation Desert Storm commencing January 1991 with shared CAPs with British Tornado F 3 and USAF F 15C aircraft and Tornado strike attacks. Iraqis attempted to mount a strike against the major Saudi oil refinery in Abqaiq on the Gulf coast on 24 January 1991 with three Mirage F 1 fighters armed with Exocet anti ship missiles and incendiary bombs and two MiG 23 fighter escorts. The group was spotted by USAF E 3 Sentry AWACS aircraft and two 13 Squadron F 15Cs were ordered to intercept scattering the MiGs before Captain Ayedh Al Shamrani got behind the Mirages still pressing for their attack and shot down both aircraft. Iraq fired scud missiles at Dhahran and other Saudi bases with most largely ineffective except for the Scud which struck a barracks occupied by US troops on 26 February 1991 killing 27 and wounding 98. 13 Squadron undertook 1016 sorties and 3369 flying hours during Operation Desert Storm before the Iraqi occupation was ejected from Kuwait in March 1991.  

The Dhahran AB emblem was changed in 1992 from the hawk bird to the building oil rig and aircraft trails logo when RSAF decided to standardise unit logos and to remove the depictions of living creatures on RSAF emblems as not in accordance with Islamic scripture. Whilst Desert Storm successfully and degraded Iraqs military capability Coalition Air Forces and RSAF 13 Squadron border operations continued from Dhahran AB during the 1990s with Operation Southern Watch and the No Fly Zone.  

92 Squadron was activated at Dhahran AB in 1995 to operate RSAFs production F 15S Strike Eagle ground attack fighters which began delivery in June 1995 under the Peace Sun IX programme. 75 Squadron was activated at Dhahran Air Base in 1996 equipped with Tornado IDS under the Al Yamamah II programme in interdiction roles and suppression of enemy air defences SEAD. 

Many USAF personnel were housed off base in the Khobar Towers Complex in the adjacent city of Khobar and suffered a terrorist bomb attack on 25 June 1996 which killed 19 US servicemen and one local Saudi although the death toll would have been greater had not a security guard given the alarm and evacuation commenced. 

83 Squadron was activated at Dhahran Air Base in 1998 equipped with Tornado IDS under the Al Yamamah II programme in interdiction role and suppression of enemy air defences SEAD. 88 Squadron was also activated as the Royal Saudi Air Force Display Team Saudi Hawks at Dhahran Air Base in 1998 equipped with Hawk Mk 65 and 65A smoke capable aircraft. 

Dhahran AB was redesignated King Abdullah Aziz Air Base in 1999 when all RSAF air bases were named after members of the Saudi Royal family and RSAF introduced its Wing system to control and support base Squadrons with two wings 3 Wing and 11 Wing established at King Abdullah Aziz Air Base Dhahran. The F 15 Squadrons 13 and 92 and Hawk Mk 65 Squadrons 21 37 and 88 Saudi Hawks Display Team were assigned to 3 Wing and the Tornado Squadrons 7 29 35 66 75 and 83 were assigned to 11 Wing. 21 37 and 88 Squadrons relocated to King Faisal Air Base KFAB Tabuk between January and March 2000 reassigned to 7 Wing joined by 79 Squadron RSAFs other Hawk unit relocating from King Feisal Air Academy Al Kharj at the same time. 

44 Squadron was activated at King Abdullah Aziz Air Base Dhahran in 2002 assigned to 2 Wing equipped with Bell 412EP helicopters for search and rescue SAR tasking.  

Dhahran AB again became a major Coalition operational combat base with the build up and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom the invasion of Iraq on 20 March 2003 to 1 May 2003. 66 Squadron was inactivated in 2005 with two of its Tornado aircraft returning to Bae Warton UK in 2006 under the Tornado Sustainment Programme TSP as test aircraft.  

KAAB units deployed assets for operations over Yemen from 2009 in support of Government forces against Houthi rebel insurgents and against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria from 2014.  

 

This patch dates from 1981.

 

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