Saudi inks $3bn UK Hawk jet deal
Published Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most repressive dictatorships, has signed a US$3 billion deal to buy 30 more Hawk jets from British defense group BAE Systems to train pilots to fly the Eurofighter Typhoon jets which it has already ordered from BAE.
Saudi Arabia's official news agency SPA quoted an unnamed official at the Saudi Defense Ministry on Wednesday as saying the deal, which includes the jets and related support services and devices, would help train "the Saudi air force to be able to use the fighter jets ... efficiently".
A source familiar with the deal told Reuters the agreement is for 30 Hawk trainer aircraft with BAE. The company is expected to announce details later on Wednesday.
The sale provides some welcome relief for the British defense giant, which is battling against shrinking defense budgets in Europe and America.
However, the order is likely to come too late to save 845 jobs at BAE's Hawk factory in Brough, Yorkshire, which is set to close.
Earlier this year, BAE said its chances of delivering profit growth in 2012 hinged on talks to finalize a range of contracts with Saudi Arabia in a year marked by tight government defense budgets.
In December the United States signed a US$29.4 billion deal to sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in a long-expected move that the Obama administration said would boost Gulf security amid tension with Iran.
In 2007 Saudi Arabia signed the contract with BAE to buy 72 Typhoon aircraft, 24 of which have been delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force. The Salam deal, as it is known, is worth around 4.5 billion pounds (US$7.3 billion).
But Riyadh's arms purchasing spree comes with concerns that the technology being sold to it will not be enough to counter regional threats.
Israel successfully dissuaded Washington from selling advanced hi-tech weaponry to Saudi Arabia for fear it may erode its own regional military supremacy.
Western arms sales to Saudi Arabia continue despite rampant human rights violations in the country.