Riyadh-based Alsalam Aircraft expects to strengthen its relationship with the UK's BAE Systems in the near future, with deals pending to extend an upgrade to the Royal Saudi Air Force's Panavia Tornado interdictor strike aircraft, and potentially to also conduct the final assembly of 48 of the service's 72 Eurofighter Typhoons.

"BAE is a very major customer on the Tornado, and now we are looking forward to the Typhoon," says Alsalam chief executive Mohammed Fallatah, adding: "We are talking to BAE about manufacturing capability in Saudi Arabia."

This could include either the final or full assembly of RSAF Typhoons, he says, adding that a decision has yet to taken on where the new completion facility will be built.

Ian Malin, BAE's head of Typhoon exports, confirms that Alsalam is "under consideration" for the key role of completing the Eurofighter, and says the UK is also looking at a range of other programme details before assembly particulars will be finalised.

The Saudi Arabian and UK governments signed an initial £4.4 billion ($9.1 billion) contract for the 72-aircraft deal during October.

If confirmed, the Typhoon assembly and related through-life support work will enable Alsalam to grow from its current total of 2,800 employees, says Fallatah, who also expects the company to receive a contract in the near future to perform the second phase of the RSAF's Tornado Capability Sustainment Programme.

This is believed to incorporate the integration of weapons such as MBDA's Brimstone anti-armour weapon and a version of its Storm Shadow cruise missile, and Raytheon's Enhanced Paveway and Paveway IV precision-guided bombs with the service's Tornado ground-attack fleet, plus new targeting pods and other equipment.

Alsalam also recently received a subcontract from Boeing to perform a Link 16 datalink upgrade to the RSAF's Boeing E-3A airborne warning and control system aircraft, and is working to "enhance the capabilities" of its KE-3A tanker-transports, says Fallatah.

The company, which is 60% owned by the Saudi-based Boeing Industrial Technology Group, will also perform depot-level maintenance on the air force's Lockheed Martin C-130 transports from next March, he adds.

Alsalam Aircraft used the show to announce an expansion to its heavy maintenance business for the commercial aviation sector, having received a new contract to support four Boeing 737-200s operated by Pakistan-based Shaheen Air International.

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Source: FlightGlobal.com