Dubai 09: Eurofighter making its mark in the Middle East

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Capturing new Typhoon fighter jet business in the Middle East is foremost on Eurofighter's agenda this week as it makes its first showing at the Dubai air show.

The Middle Eastern push comes as Eurofighter finds itself at a "watershed" moment in terms of military aircraft deliveries and capabilities, says Craig Penrice, a former UK Royal Air Force test pilot who now works as Typhoon marketing aircrew adviser for BAE Systems Military Air Solutions. He notes that the Typhoon programme has captured orders for a total of 707 jets.

Among them is a 72-strong order from Saudi Arabia, which is replacing the Panavia Tornado, the backbone of its air force, and some Northrop F-5s.

In June Saudi Arabia took delivery of the first two of 24 Typhoons originally scheduled for delivery to the RAF under London's Tranche 2 Eurofighter production order, but sold to Riyadh under a government-to-government deal dubbed Project Salam.

saudi arabian eurofighter typhoon bae systems
 © BAE Systems

A further four have since been delivered to Saudi Arabia with two more scheduled to be delivered by year-end, says Penrice.

In the 18-month period that the balance of UK-built Typhoons are delivered to Saudi Arabia, a new, purpose-built facility in the kingdom will be stood up in expectation that its remaining 48 Typhoons will be assembled locally.

Specific details, such as production rates at the Saudi Arabian facility, are still being thrashed out by the partners, says Penrice.

Eurofighter, meanwhile, is talking to "a lot of potential customers" in the Middle East and around the world, he says. "The message we put across is 'we have this balanced design. We're not relying on one feature to give us survivability or lethality'."

He says Eurofighter is "more than willing to discuss partnerships in terms of how we advance this aircraft" and how it "evolves".

"We realise there is a great interest across the world from the Japanese in the east to the Canadians in the west. Nobody wants to buy aircraft at full cost. They want to have technology transfer and want to be part of the team."