Technican training for Typhoon assembly in Saudi Arabia begins

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Eurofighter partner company BAE Systems has begun training technicians for final assembly of the Typhoon fighter jet in Saudi Arabia.

Alsalam Aircraft, which is partially owned by Boeing, has long been considered the likely partner for BAE in Saudi Arabia, which is committing to building the 48 aircraft balance of a 72-strong order for Typhoons after the delivery of 24 UK-built aircraft has been completed.

In his first-ever interview with the press, BAE's chief public relations representative in Saudi Arabia, Monther Tayeb, said at this week's Dubai air show that BAE is "working with Alsalam", and that a three-year training programme for technicians has already started.

Initial training is taking place in Saudi Arabia. "The second part of the training will take place in the UK," says Tayeb, who adds that well over 100 new jobs will be created and that Alsalam will be the local technicians' employer.

Details remain at bay, however, about where the final assembly plant will be based, who will ultimately work to complete the aircraft in Saudi Arabia and the anticipated production rates, as these are government-to-government considerations.

BAE board member Peter Anstiss assures, however, that the programme is "going on at pace".

In June Saudi Arabia took delivery of its first two of 24 Typhoons originally scheduled for delivery to the UK Royal Air Force under the UK's Tranche 2 Eurofighter production order, but diverted to Riyadh under a government-to-government deal dubbed Project Salam.

A further four have since been delivered to Saudi Arabia, with two more scheduled to be delivered by year-end. In the 18-month period that the balance of UK-built Typhoons are delivered to Saudi Arabia, the new, purpose-built final assembly will be stood up in the kingdom.

Capturing new Typhoon business in the Middle East, meanwhile, was foremost on Eurofighter consortium's agenda as its aircraft made its first showing in Dubai.

Of the forecast 800 fighter sales in the medium term, Eurofighter's slice in the Middle East region could be 50-100 aircraft, says Eurofighter chief executive Enzo Casolini. The company marked the delivery of its 200th Typhoon during the air show.