Problems Emerge in Saudi Eurofighter Deal

 - September 3, 2010, 8:13 AM
The progress of the $6.6 billion al-Salam agreement between the UK and Saudi governments is being questioned, following the August 24 crash of a two-seat Spanish Air Force Eurofighter, which killed a Royal Saudi Air Force pilot. Shown here is a single-seat RSAF Typhoon at its rollout ceremony.

The crash of a Spanish Air Force two-seat Eurofighter at Moron airbase on August 24 that killed a pilot from the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) has raised questions about the progress of the al-Salam agreement between the UK and Saudi governments. This $6.6 billion deal provided for the training of RSAF pilots and ground crew by the UK Royal Air Force, as well as the supply of 72 Eurofighters and various support services by BAE Systems. Twenty-four of the aircraft were to be delivered from the UK production line at Warton, with the remaining 48 to be license-assembled in Saudi Arabia. 

When we last reported on al-Salam two years ago, work on a final assembly facility at Dhahran airbase was due to be completed in August 2009. But AIN has learned from two industry sources that this plan is well behind schedule. Eurofighter subassemblies and avionics equipment destined for Dhahran are being stored in the UK. The UK Ministry of Defence told AIN that the plan to produce 48 Eurofighters in Saudi Arabia was unchanged, “but the governments remain in confidential discussion on the details.” British newspapers reported that a planned visit to Saudi Arabia in late July by Britain’s new defense minister, Liam Fox, was canceled on short notice because no Saudi officials were available to meet him.

Deliveries of the RSAF’s Eurofighters from Warton did start as planned in June last year. To date, eight single-seat and four two-seat Eurofighters have been flown to the kingdom; another two of each type have flown at Warton but are yet to be delivered. Meanwhile, only six RSAF pilots have completed their conversion training at RAF Coningsby in the UK. According to the UK Ministry of Defence, another batch of Saudi pilots are due to train in the UK later this year. “The Spanish are also training Saudi Typhoon pilots but we cannot comment on this as it is a matter for the Spanish and Saudi governments,” the MoD added.