Indications from the Saudi Defense Ministry suggest initial moves on the submarine acquisition program in the coming year—first by establishing a special committee to begin re-examine the submarine project. According to AMI's sources, the RSNF is interested in consulting with US experts prior to making any procurement decision, although Saudi officials have clearly indicated no decision has been made on suppliers.
The RSNF is calling for a minimum of two units; although AMI believes that this requirement could be for as many as four units in order to have at least one submarine available to operate on each coast at any given time.
Although the US may be in a position to advise, it has not built conventional submarines in over 30 years. The Saudi's will have several new European designs that are available including the ThyssenKrupp Marine Type 214 or Type 212, the DCNS/Navantia Scorpene and the Navantia S 80.
AMI also believes that there could be an opportunity with the Type 209 through Turkey or South Korea. Initial acquisition may also include used submarines as European navies continue to downsize due to the continuing fiscal crisis in the Eurozone.
If the RSNF has re-prioritized this program as advertised, the sea service could begin procurement actions by 2013 in order to have a submarine in service as early as 2016. AMI believes that the RSNF is indeed more serious about the procurement of submarines due its close location to Iran, which is becoming more belligerent and menacing to its neighbors and the entire region. At some point the RSNF may have to be able to counter Iran's growing submarine force and that realization is beginning to appear once again.