Saudi Arabia is close to finalising a EUR2.5 billion contract with Thales to upgrade its Shahine short-range air defence (SHORAD) systems, La Tribune reported on 5 October.
The French newspaper cited several unidentified sources as saying the negotiations were completed in early September, but the deal still has to be approved by Minister of Defence Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
It added that negotiations have already begun on a second phase that could be worth around EUR1.5 billion.
Thales (then Thomson-CSF) developed the Shahine SAMs system for Saudi Arabia in the 1970s: it is an improved version of the Crotale 2000 with a larger missile, the R460. The system consists of a launcher with six (rather than the original four) missiles mounted on either an AMX-30 tank chassis or a towed shelter and supported by a target acquisition radar mounted on its own vehicle or shelter.
The Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF) received 46 target acquisition radars and 92 launchers in both self-propelled and towed variants in the early 1980s.
These systems were subsequently upgraded by Thomson-CSF to the Shahine 2 standard, which is an improved version of the Crotale 4000.
La Tribune stated that the new contract is named ‘Mark 3’, suggesting the upgrade will result in a new Shahine 3 standard.
While no further details of the upgrade have been revealed, it could be a development on the latest Crotale NG Mk 3 system, which uses the more manoeuvrable VT-1 missile and has its target acquisition radar mounted on top of the launcher rather than on a separate vehicle. Thales says it is capable of engaging tactical missiles and high-manoeuvring aircraft.
It is debatable whether the Saudis will retain the Shahine’s current chassis, given that the AMX-30 tanks that the system was designed to support have been retired from RSLF service.
The naval version of the Crotale is also fitted to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces’ Madina-class frigates. La Tribune reported in September that DCNS, which is partly owned by Thales, had won a EUR750 billion contract to upgrade these frigates and two Boraida-class replenishment vessels.