Saudi Arabia could modify its Salam programme acquisition of the Eurofighter Typhoon to equip part of the fleet with Tranche 3 capabilities. BAE Systems disclosed the potential contractual shift on 17 February within its annual results report.

Eighteen of the Royal Saudi Air Force's eventual 72 Typhoons have been delivered so far, with these having come off BAE's final assembly line at Warton, Lancashire. Riyadh has so far received 12 single-seat fighters and six two-seat trainers, with 10 of the total having been delivered during 2010.

"Whilst deliveries on the Salam programme remain on schedule, the programme is likely to be adjusted to accommodate some customer changes," says BAE. "These may include relocating final assembly of the last 48 of the 72 aircraft, the creation of a maintenance and upgrade facility in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and, in addition, the last 24 of the 72 aircraft might be delivered with modifications to allow future incorporation of Tranche 3 capability."

Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have already signed up for Tranche 3A production of the Typhoon, with new capabilities to potentially include the incorporation of MBDA's Meteor beyond visual-range air-to-air-missile, Storm Shadow cruise missile and an active electronically scanned array radar by 2015. Approved in 2009, their combined commitment is worth €9 billion ($12.2 billion).

A government-to-government deal between London and Riyadh, project Salam includes the ongoing transfer of 24 aircraft originally contracted under the UK's Tranche 2 commitment to the four-nation Eurofighter programme.

 Saudi Air force Eurofighter Typhoon
© BAE Systems

Plans to start the in-country assembly of the multi-role type have been the subject of delay, while BAE has attempted to firm up its industrial arrangements with Saudi-based partners. Instead, Riyadh could now opt to have all of its aircraft completed in the UK, and instead focus its attention on establishing a domestic capability to provide in-service support and future upgrades.

"The programme changes will necessitate contract and pricing revisions that will need to be concluded in 2011. These will bias both sales and profits to the second half of 2011," BAE says. Signed in 2007, the Salam deal is worth over £4.4 billion ($7.1 billion).

With regard to another government-to-government sales opportunity in the Middle East region, the company says "significant activity is ongoing to agree an order for the supply of Typhoon aircraft to the Royal Air Force of Oman".

Source: Flight International