Saudi Arabia’s at least £4.4 billion ($9 billion) deal for 72 Eurofighter Typhoons has formally advanced into its production phase, with the four-nation Eurofighter organisation having signed documents on the project with prime contractor BAE Systems.

BAE recently received its own contract from the UK government, which is responsible for the bilateral agreement to sell the Typhoon to Riyadh, including 24 aircraft to be diverted from their intended delivery to the Royal Air Force. The UK service will receive replacement examples later in the programme’s Tranche 2 production phase.

The Royal Saudi Air Force will receive its first Typhoon in mid-2009, with its first 24 examples to be completed at BAE’s Warton site in Lancashire. An industry source says discussions on training and support packages have yet to conclude between the UK and Saudi Arabia, although initial RSAF Typhoon pilots will undergo conversion training alongside their RAF counterparts.

Final confirmation of Saudi Arabia's Project Salam deal marks the Eurofighter consortium’s second export success for the multirole type, with Austria having so far received two of its eventual 15 aircraft. The Eurojet consortium which manuafctures the Typhoon's EJ200 turbofan engines says the Saudi deal is worth up to £1 billion for manufacturing and support activities.