Saudi Arabia has signed an expanded military agreement with the UK government, including a commitment to acquire at least 24 Eurofighter Typhoons to replace its air force fleet of Panavia Tornado Air Defence Variant (ADV) fighters.
Contained within a so-called “understanding document”, the multi-billion pound Typhoon order would provide the cornerstone of a third phase to the bilateral Al Yamamah arms agreement, which has already covered the delivery and support of 120 Tornado ADV and Interdictor Strike (IDS) aircraft, BAE Systems Hawk and Pilatus PC-9 trainers and other equipment.
Announcing the agreement on 21 December, the UK Ministry of Defence said: “Under the terms of the signed document Typhoon aircraft will replace Tornado ADV aircraft and others in service with the RSAF [Royal Saudi Air Force].” The MoD says this will cover the delivery of 24 aircraft to be drawn from the UK Royal Air Force’s production run of 89 Tranche 2 Eurofighters, a £4.3 billion ($7.5 billion) contract for which was signed in December 2004.
The MoD says the RAF will receive additional Tranche 2 airframes to offset this transfer, and that the Saudi Arabian deal will have no impact on its commitment to sign a Tranche 3 deal to take the UK’s total Typhoon purchase to 232 aircraft.
The MoD declines to provide additional information on the deal’s likely cost and delivery schedule, noting: “The details of these arrangements are confidential between the two governments.” However, Tranche 2 deliveries are scheduled to run between late 2007 and mid-2012 for Eurofighter partner nations Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, with launch export customer Austria to also acquire 18 aircraft. An expanded purchase could potentially enable Riyadh to also replace some of its Northrop F-5 fighters with the Typhoon.
The new agreement also seeks to further develop Saudi Arabia’s national aerospace industry through the transfer of technology from prime contractor BAE and the establishment of additional in-country support facilities. BAE is in the process of promoting an extensive upgrade to Saudi Arabia’s Tornado IDS aircraft in an effort to further boost the value of its Al Yamamah business activities.
Source: Flight International