Rigorous Selection, English Proficiency, and 200 Hours of Practice: How Saudi Arabia Trains Combat Pilots

In Saudi Arabia, as in many nations within the tense landscape of the Middle East, unwavering attention is directed towards bolstering their armed forces.

07/08/2023 - 20:29
Source: zimbio.com
Source: zimbio.com

Given the volatile regional circumstances, particularly the unresolved conflict in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is dedicated to enhancing its Air Force by recruiting highly skilled personnel. This strategic move aims to safeguard the kingdom's airspace against diverse threats.

Prospective aviators, as well as aviation technicians and administrative staff, receive their initial professional military education at the King Faisal Air College. This educational institution admits males aged 18 to 24. In addition to conventional health and educational prerequisites, fluency in English is compulsory for cadets. The training spans three years, during which trainees can amass up to 200 hours of flight time.

The curriculum's first year encompasses general military training, while subsequent years see aviators engaging in comprehensive education and specialized programs. The college produces 80-100 specialists twice annually: technical graduates in summer, and flying personnel in winter, with half of these graduates destined for the Air Forces of friendly nations.

Practical Training

The practical training of cadets unfolds at combat and support aviation airbases. Initial flight instruction occurs on the "Cessna 172" aircraft. Subsequently, pilots undergo core and tactical training on the F-5B aircraft model. Over a span of 42 hours, cadets embark on practical flights averaging an hour in duration.

The college's training regimen is marked by its exacting standards. Approximately 50-70% of aspiring pilots are dismissed annually for failing to meet combat aviation program criteria. Furthermore, around 15% of students are screened out during piloting exercises conducted under challenging conditions. Consequently, only about 50 cadets are admitted to the tactical flight stage on F-5B aircraft, and approximately 40 successfully complete this phase of instruction.

The Prince Sultan Air Force Technical Institute and the Prince Sultan Air Force School provide specialized military training and instruction for technical specialists serving in the Kingdom's Air Force.

During exercises, Air Force command strives to replicate combat scenarios as closely as possible. In 2022, Saudi pilots logged an average flight time of 210 hours, a 10% increase from the previous year. Pilots undergo simulator training prior to conducting independent flights. Theoretical studies encompass understanding potential adversaries' capabilities, tactics for aerial combat, direct fire engagement tasks, the particulars of standard aviation structures and armament.

In the scope of international military cooperation initiatives, Riyadh sends officers from its national Air Force to various countries including the United Kingdom, Egypt, China, the United States, France, and several nations in Southeast Asia. Here, they receive specialized training predominantly related to the operation of weaponry acquired by the kingdom.

On the whole, as evident from this overview, Saudi Arabia's Air Force pilot training system is aptly designed to produce qualified personnel, thus ensuring the nation's security.



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