Saudi F-15 jet crashes on training mission, pilot missing

RIYADH, Dec 3 (Reuters) - A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 jet

crashed in the Gulf during a routine training exercise late on

Sunday and the pilot has not been found, the defence ministry

said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia maintains a powerful air force supplied

primarily by equipment made in the United States and Britain.

Last year Washington announced a $29.4 billion deal to sell

the new F-15, made by Boeing, to the Saudi air force.

Industry sources have said the Saudis will buy 84 of the jets.

The plane that crashed was based at the King Abdulaziz Air

Base in the kingdom's Eastern Province and piloted by Lieutenant

Fahd bin Falih al-Masarir, a defence ministry statement said.

The ministry said the jet went down in Saudi waters and that

authorities were investigating the cause of the crash.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter and main Arab

ally of the United States, also has Tornadoes and Typhoons in

its air force.

The predominantly Sunni-Muslim kingdom is locked in a tussle

for regional influence with rival Shi'ite power Iran and is

concerned about the destabilising effect of last year's Arab

uprisings.

Its air force was last used in combat during the brief

2009-2010 conflict with Yemeni Houthi rebels.

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