Mega jet deal set to be signed

24 March 2006

Riyadh and London will sign 'in the near future' a defence mega-deal covering the supply of 72 Typhoon fighter jets, manufactured by the Eurofighter consortium, and other defence services, say senior sources in Riyadh.

The deal follows several months of negotiations between the two capitals and the signing on 21 December of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in which both sides agreed to co-operate closely on modernising the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF).

The Typhoons will be delivered in two batches - an initial tranche of 24 followed by a second tranche of 48 planes - with the first deliveries due within five years. Under the terms of the agreement, the UK's BAE Systems will also upgrade RSAF interdictor-strike (IDS) Tornadoes, which it supplied under the Al-Yamamah defence deal originally signed in 1985, from GR1 to GR4 standard. The defence contractor will also commit to investing in local Saudi companies, develop an industrial technology transfer plan and provide training for Saudi nationals.

The Eurofighter aircraft is being developed by a consortium of Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The order will secure a significant amount of work for BAE over the next 10 years.

The sources say that Riyadh is also considering two other major defence deals with Paris - the supply of Rafale fighter jets manufactured by France's Dassault Aviation and an estimated $9,000 million border security deal with an all-French consortium led by Thales Group. Both deals featured in talks in Riyadh between France's President Chirac and King Abdullah in early March (MEED 24:2:06; 23:12:05).

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