Europe’s biggest defence contractor BAE Systems announced a three-year deal to provide support and maintenance for Typhoon warplanes sold by Britain to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF).
BAE, one of three major contractors involved in building the multirole Eurofighter Typhoon, said it had agreed to provide a “full availability service contract” that includes training in Britain for Saudi pilots and aircraft technicians.
The company did not give a value for the deal. The Daily Mail reported earlier it could match a £450 million (R5212 million) contract BAE won from Britain’s Ministry of Defence in March.
Britain sold 72 Eurofighter Typhoons to Saudi Arabia in 2006 and the RSAF has begun flying operations following the delivery of the first four, BAE Systems said in a statement.
With the global fighter market heating up in the face of perceived new threats and demand to replace old fleets, analysts say after-sales support is a lucrative source of top-up revenue.
Global fighter sales are worth $17 billion (R123 million) a year and the after-market generates at least as much again, according to Washington-based consultant Richard Aboulafia of Teal Group.
Sources close to the matter said in June Britain was in talks to sell another 72 planes to Saudia Arabia, coupled with a possible additional deal for support.
BAE and its industrial partners Finmeccanica of Italy and Airbus parent EADS EAD.PA>, which represents Germany and Spain divide up marketing responsibility for the Typhoon and coordinate production for their respective clients.
BAE leads marketing efforts in the Middle East and Japan, where it is campaigning to break into a market for US jets.
The four Eurofighter nations struck a $13 billion (R94 billion) deal in July to build 112 new planes for their own forces.
In December 2006, Britain dropped an investigation of allegations of bribery of Saudi Arabian officials in record arms deals involving BAE, after then-Prime Minister Tony Blair said the probe threatened national security.
BAE still faces the threat of prosecution by the Serious Fraud Office over separate bribery allegations in four other countries.
BAE has said it is spending “considerable effort” to resolve the case as soon as possible.
Pic: Eurofighter typoon warplane