Plans for in-country assembly of 48 of the Royal Saudi Air Force's 72 Eurofighter Typhoons could be finalised within the next two months, with an industry official warning that time is running out to establish a new line and deliver the first locally completed aircraft as planned in 2011.
"We have a two-year window - if we have to build a facility, we can barely make that," says Mohammed Fallatah, chief executive of Riyadh-headquartered Alsalam Aircraft, which has been selected to conduct the work in partnership with BAE Systems. "We are at the stage of details, but there is no firm contract yet."
Factors such as local manufacturing content, site location, workforce issues and long-term support have yet to be finalised, says Fallatah. "We want to transfer real technology here. But any deal must make economic sense for me, my partners and the RSAF," he adds.
BAE says: "We have a commitment to develop in-Kingdom industrialisation and create jobs for Saudi nationals. We are working with the customer to develop plans to establish a production facility with Alsalam Aircraft."
Late last year, the Saudi and UK governments finalised an initial £4.4 billion ($8.7 billion) contract for the Project Salam deal, with BAE to deliver Riyadh's first 24 UK-built Typhoons from its Warton site in Lancashire from mid-2009.