Monday, February 09, 2009
A Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft in the full two-tone grey livery of the Royal Saudi Air Force. After unsuccessful campaigns in South Korea and Singapore, on 18 August 2006 it was announced that Saudi Arabia had agreed to purchase 72 Typhoons. In November and December it was reported that Saudi Arabia had threatened to buy French Rafales because of a UK Serious Fraud Office investigation into the Al Yamamah ("the dove") defence deals which commenced in the 1980s. However on 14 December 2006 Britain's attorney general, Lord Peter Goldsmith, ordered that the Serious Fraud Office discontinue its investigation in the BAE Systems' alleged bribery to senior Saudi officials in the al-Yamamah contracts, citing "the need to safeguard national and international security". The Times has raised the possibility that RAF production aircraft will be diverted as early Saudi Arabian aircraft, with the service forced to wait for its full complement of aircraft. This arrangement would mirror the diversion of RAF Tornados to the RSAF. However, The Times has also reported that such an arrangement will make the UK purchase of its tranche 3 commitments more likely. On 17 September 2007 Saudi Arabia confirmed it had signed a GB£4.43 billion contract for 72 aircraft. 24 aircraft will be at the Tranche 2 build standard, previously destined for the UK RAF, the first being delivered in 2008. The remaining 48 aircraft will be assembled in Saudi Arabia and delivered from 2011. Saudi Arabia considers to order 24 additional jets in the future, more recent reports suggest that number may be as high as 60 or 72. *On 22 October 2008 an aircraft in the full two-tone grey livery of the Royal Saudi Air Force flew for the first time at BAE Systems’ Warton Aerodrome, marking the start of an initial test flight programme for RSAF aircraft. Declining global fortunes have made the relatively stable, relatively cash-rich Middle Eastern nations even more attractive to international defence companies. The race is on to provide them with the most attractively priced, technologically advanced and well-designed weapon systems, complete with lucrative after-sale service and maintenance contracts. Within the region, however, there is a wide spectrum of capability, capacity and cash flow that limits the effectiveness of sweeping generalisations about regional trends in procurement; poor countries such as Yemen and Lebanon cannot be equated with the immensely wealthy nations in the Gulf such as Saudi Arabia, which has long been ranked among the top 10 largest importers of weapons worldwide.