AIN has learned that the first two Eurofighter Typhoons for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) are now on the final assembly line at BAE Systems’ Warton, UK factory, although the potential $40 billion deal to supply and support 72 Typhoons has not yet been formally announced. A spokesman for the UK’s Defence Export Sales Organisation told AIN that an announcement could come soon, but might be postponed until after a state visit to London in October by Saudi King Abdullah. BAE has continued its drive to recruit more expatriates to work in the Kingdom, on which AIN first reported at the Paris Air Show in June.
Meanwhile, more details of the upgrade program for the RSAF’s BAE Tornado IDS combat jets have emerged, during the first-ever deployment of these aircraft to the UK for an exercise with the Royal Air Force. Phase 1 of the Tornado Sustainment Programme (TSP) is well under way, and all eight of the Tornados that flew to the UK had already been modified, with new navigation and radio systems and displays for the weapons system officer in the back seat. Phase 2 of the TSP will include more avionics and software upgrades, and smart weapons. As with the Typhoon deal, BAE is officially sworn to secrecy on the TSP, even though three RSAF Tornados have been based at Warton for 18 months as development aircraft for the upgrade, and were joined a few months ago by three more. Our photo shows one of the Saudi Tornados during the UK exercise last week.