Typhoon wins in Oman, but where next?

Defence sector news wasn’t in short supply while we were away enjoying an extended festive break, with aircraft sales, deliveries, accidents and new sightings all to be caught up on our flightglobal.com/defence channel.

From my viewpoint in the UK, one of the most significant acts was the long-expected signature of a deal to supply the Royal Air Force of Oman with a dozen Eurofighter Typhoons. We first reported on Muscat’s interest in the deal back in 2008, but deliveries of the Tranche 3 aircraft will begin from BAE Systems’ Warton final assembly line in Lancashire in 2017. Presumably they will replace the RAFO’s Sepecat Jaguars, the oldest of which were delivered back in 1974.

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This was the first export success for the Eurofighter consortium in five years, since the UK brokered a deal to supply the Royal Saudi Air Force with 72 Typhoons. BAE still has a headache with that order though, with protracted talks with Riyadh continuing over the cost and configuration of its remaining 48 aircraft. But in all, international sales of the Typhoon now stand at 99, also including the 15 interceptors flown by Austria.

With the four-nation consortium already having acted to slow delivery rates to guarantee production until late this decade, more export deals are required. Brazil, India, Japan and Singapore have all said no to the Typhoon over the last several years, and surprise interest shown by the United Arab Emirates in late 2011 also has gone nowhere.

So what next? South Korea should make a fighter decision early this year, but will surely follow Tokyo’s lead in selecting Lockheed Martin’s F-35. Malaysia is eyed as a potential future Eurofighter customer, but a success there would be for only a handful of jets. Next month’s Aero India show should cast light on whether there’s any chance of New Delhi backtracking on its selection of the Dassault Rafale over the Typhoon, but Alenia Aermacchi, BAE and EADS probably shouldn’t be holding their collective breaths. A follow-on Saudi deal could maybe come in time, but that’s not certain, following Riyadh’s major deal with Boeing for new and upgraded F-15SAs.

This is going to be a key year for the Eurofighter companies, with a decision also needed from their launch partners on whether Tranche 3B production will take place, to conclude their original combined 620-aircraft requirement. Given the state of European budgets, that’s probably an outside chance at best.

More positively, the Omani Typhoon deal also includes an order for eight of BAE’s new-generation Hawk advanced jet trainer. That was a surprise to me, and followed a Saudi buy of 22 examples concluded earlier in 2012. With the UK already having received 28 of the aircraft, the new Hawk has now secured orders for 58 aircraft. A modest start, but more sales will surely follow. And a genuine candidate for the US Air Force’s pending T-X requirement, perhaps?

Here’s to an action-packed 2013: we look forward to bringing the best of it to you on The DEW Line and Flightglobal.
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