Second Saudi Eurofighter Typhoon deal is still alive after a five-year hiatus, but it's not near.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is interested in buying an additional tranche of Eurofighter Typhoons, and the UK and Germany are part of a four-country Eurofighter consortium. A Memorandum of Intent aimed at closing the deal for 48 aircraft was signed five years ago, but the UK suspended arms sales to KSA in 2019. Germany's refusal to issue arms export licenses to Riyadh in the wake of US-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder and Yemen war involvement prevented the sale from moving forward. Germany appears to have changed its position on the matter after reports emerged in September 2022 that Chancellor Olaf Scholz approved "several deals on arms exports" ahead of a visit to the Middle East. One of those deals valued at €36.1 million allowed KSA to buy Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jet weapons and equipment, including support and upgrade packages for IRST systems.


The German position on exports to Saudi Arabia is now almost completely about-face, with the UK free from past export obstacles. Saudi Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman visited BAE Systems Eurofighter Typhoon production facility in Warton, England in December 2022, but did not make any reference to the status of the Typhoon follow-on order. The announcement last month of Riyadh and London committing to a “Partnering Feasibility Study” to explore future combat air technologies would seem to open the door back up for movement on Eurofighter. BAE Systems made £2.5 billion from arms sales to KSA in 2022, accounting for 11% of all annual sales. The ties between the two are so close that the manufacturer said, in the annual report, that the three pillars of the KSA “Vision 2030” of a vibrant society, thriving economy, and ambitious nation are directly supported and championed by the Group.


BAE Systems “continue to address current and potential new requirements as part of long-standing agreements between the UK Government and Saudi Arabia.” The KSA Ministry of Defense has declined to comment on the possibility of a further batch of Typhoon aircraft. A UK MoD spokesperson has indicated that if the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia concluded that a purchase of additional Typhoon aircraft, or an upgrade to their current fleet, matched their capability needs, then they would fully support that and work closely with their Eurofighter Partner Nations. The current UK position is far less certain compared to the language used when the Memorandum of Intent was signed and clear reference was made to “finalize discussions” for the order. A dearth of Typhoon export sales largely caused by losing competitive tenders to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter means Kuwait and Qatar are the only export customers currently receiving new Typhoon aircraft. Newer “home nation” orders from Germany and Spain, alongside testing and delivery of the Eurofighter Typhoon European Common Radar System Mark 2 (ECRS Mk2) for the Royal Air Force, gives BAE near-term production security, but if low-rate initial production for the next-generation Tempest or the crewed fighter developed for GCAP does not start. Warton is able to mothball the line, as they did with Tornado production, which cost them. Typhoon manufacturing is currently underpinned by orders from Qatar, Germany, and Spain, which will ensure continuity of production beyond the mid-2020s.

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