The UK Government has signed a Memorandum of Intent with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to aim to finalise discussions for the purchase of 48 Typhoon Aircraft.

Saudi Arabia already operates 72 Typhoon jets.

BAE Systems said in a press release:

“This is a positive step towards agreeing a contract for our valued partner. We are committed to supporting the Kingdom as it modernises the Saudi Armed Forces and develops key industrial capabilities critical to the delivery of Vision 2030.”

BAE had slowed production on the jet and cut jobs as the order book backlog thinned out.

The Typhoon is a highly capable and agile fourth-generation combat aircraft say the Royal Air Force, capable of being deployed for the full spectrum of air operations, including air policing and high-intensity conflict.

The aircraft’s development began in 1983 with the Future European Fighter Aircraft programme, a multinational collaboration among the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Disagreements over design authority and operational requirements led France to leave the consortium to develop the Dassault Rafale independently.

A British Typhoon flies over the Middle East.

Typhoon first flew in 1994 and entered operational service in 2003. Over 600 of the type have been built for 8 nations. The British Typhoon force currently stands at five frontline squadrons, plus the OCU, while 41(R) Test & Evaluation Squadron (TES) operates a small Typhoon fleet under the Air Warfare Centre.

According to the Royal Air Force, the type has been very busy:

“Having first deployed into combat for Operation Ellamy (over Libya) in 2011, the Typhoon force began an enduring commitment to Operation Shader (Iraq/Syria) in December 2015.

It has also been a regular contributor to the Baltic Air Policing effort under Operation Azotize and most recently bolstered NATO air defence over the Black Sea, deploying four jets to Romania, in addition to the standing commitment of QRA in the UK and Falkland Islands. 

Most recently, Typhoons deployed to Estonia for air-land integration training with a British Army battle group.”

A Typhoon scrambles to intercept an aircraft. (Credit: Vladimir Korolkov)
Photo credit: Vladimir Korolkov.

The aircraft is armed with an internal 27mm Mauser cannon, plus AIM-120 AMRAAM and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles, and Enhanced Paveway II and Paveway IV precisionguided bombs. Future weapons (those still to be cleared for use on the jet) will include the Meteor air-to-air, and Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-ground missiles.

In the air-to-air role the jet employs the infrared guided Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) and radar-guided, beyond visual range Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). These weapons say the RAF, used in conjunction with the jet’s ECR-90 Captor radar and PIRATE electro-optical targeting system, combine with the Typhoon’s superior performance and manoeuvrability to make it a formidable platform.

IMAGE: Crown Copyright

For ground-attack missions, Typhoon is compatible with the GPS/laser-guided Enhanced Paveway II and Paveway IV weapons, usually in conjunction with the Litening III targeting pod. Its regular configuration for the armed reconnaissance and CAS roles includes Litening III, Paveway IV and the internal 27mm gun. Paveway IV offers cockpit-programmable impact angle, impact direction and fuse delay features for precisely tailored target effects.

The 27mm gun is ideally suited to providing warning shots or for accurate attacks against targets including light vehicles and personnel.

Typhoon development has continued in carefully executed phases, as was always the intention. This process received additional impetus from Project Centurion, which aims to transfer core Tornado GR4 capability onto Typhoon by the ‘Tonka’s’ 2019 out of service date.  Paveway IV has been operational on Tranche 2 Typhoon for sometime, with the completion of Meteor integration next, followed by Storm Shadow and then Brimstone.

A US KC-10 Extender refuels an RAF Typhoon.
Gp Capt John Cunningham, who heads up Project Centurion – the programme to improve the jet’s capabilities for the UK fleet – said recently:
“By the end of 2018 no other aircraft in the world will have all of the Typhoon’s capabilities. It will have the long-range air-to- air Meteor missile, Brimstone and Storm Shadow which can hit moving targets and underground structures, Paveway IV laser guided bombs, the Litening III targeting pod and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles. All this will come together by December 2018 making the next year the biggest game changer ever in the development of this aircraft.”
Project Centurion will ensure seamless transition of capability from Tornado to Typhoon by the time Tornado goes out of service in 2019. Currently only the RAF’s three Tornado squadrons can fight with Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-surface missiles.
Typhoon with two Storm Shadow missiles
These improvements will make Typhoon the backbone of the RAF’s combat air capability. Andy Flynn, BAE Systems’ Centurion and Eurofighter delivery director, said:
“We have had some great days in the office this year with starting the operational evaluation of Meteor and Storm Shadow capabilities and completing the firing campaigns of Brimstone. We have a big year ahead of us that will require us to ensure we make every day count.”

42 COMMENTS

    • Aye, but they do not have numerous other capabilities the UK has which we pay a premium for, or the intelligence or SF capabilities.

      If they want them and have more so what?

      Employs our people and keeps Warton ticking over.

    • It will be interesting to see how many fremm er frigates they purchase off france when the crown princes hopes over the channel. It always feels like a race to see who can grab the biggest slice of the arms pie in the mid east.

  1. Keeps Typhoon production lines running throughout the 2020s AND will provide further investment for upgrades etc…..probably puts us ahead of Rafale now in terms of export numbers too

    Hopefully they WONT be used to attack civilian targets in Yemen….will probably be all over by then

    • Hi Julian1
      Soaring ahead of Rafale!
      Typhoon, about 150 exports – plus another 48 now pending
      Rafale – around 100.

    • Based on confirmed export sales Rafale is on 84 (most of which came out of France’s planned purchases). With the potential for another 24 jets split between Qatar and Egypt (I doubt Qatar will place a follow up order after purchasing the Typhoon and France financed Egypt’s jets so I don’t think they should count).

      The Typhoon now has export sales of 202 to Austria, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. So it’s safe to say the Typhoon wiped the floor with Rafale in the end.

      • It is a shame they were not a combined offering though isn’t it, the economies of scale would have made for a cheaper product and the combined French and British use of them in conflict would have led to quicker additions of the full air to ground capabilities and so they would likely have won more of the earlier export competitions that the Typhoon lost on the grounds that it was not yet good enough at air to ground.

    • Julian – Typhoon has always been way ahead of the Rafale in export sales and that doesn’t include the 4 partner nations. The current tally is:
      Typhoon total sales: 623
      Typhoon ‘export’ sales: 151 (without this Saudi order)

      Rafale total sales: 276
      Rafale export sales: 96

      And when you look at two of the Rafale sales (India and Egypt) you see massive French Government involvement like ‘helping’ Egypt with FREMM frigates and letting them have the two ‘Mistrals’ fora round of drinks. Sort of against EU rules but then the French Government have a different version to the rest of us (big shares in Renault, PSA Vauxhall and Alstom for just 3).

      I think its a shame the French played their games with the Typhoon and baled out when they had all they needed to build the Rafale. Combined sales of 900 airframes would have brought massive economies of scale and even more sales given a lower price. I also think the Typhoon would have been a far better aircraft sooner. We would certainly have had a ‘Sea Typhoon’ which then begs the question about whether we would have had CATOBAR carriers. Oh wait the French baled out of that programme as well …

      • The French have consistently proven to be crap partners in projects like this. With the Germans trying to weasel out of commitments, European partnerships are horribly inefficient. We should work in partnership with Swedes and Japanese (and possibly the Italians) and forget about the French and Germans.

        • Agreed 100%, the Italians have definitely proved more reliable although prob have taken more than their fair share of the work share. I think they are worried about being screwed out of future European collaborative projects when the UK leaves the EU as Leonardo has such a big footprint in the UK. I’d be happy if the UK never collaborated on joint defense projects with the French and Germans again, although the Boxer screw up is 100% the UKs fault.

      • The Sea Typhoon was a serious proposition and BAE had carried out carrier simulations as well as engineering simulations. At the time though QE and PoW were still pipe dreams. It would have been a fantastic carrier aircraft as its main competition at the time were F18, Mig29 and Su35, which aircraft wins the majority of Red Flag?

        Here’s a fact for you, the main wings if the Typhoon are made in two different countries. Italy makes the left wing whilst Spain produces the right – they are different sizes! One of the two countries built their jigs wrong (were not talking Nimrod differences) so that one wing is nearly a centimeter wider!

        The Flight computers can easily cope with the differences, but it goes to show what can happen when trying to get a multi Country collaboration and production of a complex piece of kit to work!

  2. Got to love Saudi foreign policy…..

    HMG: Look your bombing civilians, starting proxy war, funding terrorist groups and abusing your own population…..

    Saudi totalitarian state dictator: I would like to buy another 48 typhoons to park next to my other 72 typhoons, 88 tornados, 96 f15s, and 186 Strike eagles.

    HMG: that will do nicely sir, suits you sir…… UN Security Council resolutions….. I’m sure we can sort that…… come back soon if you fancy another nice row of Hawks.

    • You reading the Guardian to much. It was Iran would started the war in the Yemen and using its proxy forces to overthrow an elected government.

      Have you ever been to KSA?

      • Mike – you can always spot a Leftie …. always find fault with everything the UK does especially if it involves exports

        • Chris, get a grip mate, just because I am aware the U.K. has to shake hands with those we don’t share values with and can be honest about that in a perfect world I’d rather just support nations that do share our values does not make me a leftie communist vegan.

          As is we need to put our hands in the shit because that’s the world.

          I have to say maybe if people stopped throwing stupid labels about we could have a bit better debate.

          • Saudi Arabia is a good friend with a mutual enemy. Iran. Have to say it will be interesting to watch the local Labour mps trying to welcome the deal while trying to avoid answering questions about the fact their own front bench are opposing it ! Politics is nothing if not entertaining.

      • I read the times mate, I’m not making a judgment about who started the war I’m Yemen I’m just a realist when it comes to our relationship. It’s not mutual love of cultures or shared values. It’s lots of oil and money on their part and a high tech defence industry and international influence on ours. A match made in pragmatism not respect and admiration.

    • Sorry Johnathon. I hadn’t realised that the peaceful. trustworthy Iranians and Yemeni’s were so innocent.

        • Geoff, I’m not talking about the governments and nation states being innocent. the whole lot of them in that region are totalitarian less than pleasant states ruled by leaders who have no one to hold them to account and who will and do use violence as a first choice.. Don’t get me wrong I’m complete pragmatic about dealing with Saudi, if it benefits the U.K. I will work with it. I’m just honest in that we support them not because of shared values but because of self interest.
          When I’m talking in about inocents I’m taking about the powerless normal families that just want to live and feed themselves, In other words the poor sods than always suffer and die in droves because generally nation states and empires have always act like bastards.

  3. Great News for British industry, not just the sales, but the service and surpport package need to keep these flying, Well done UK PLC for sure if we hadn’t been hospitable and a friend of Saudi Arabia, the French would have stepped in and sold them Raffle jets.

    Just need the Saudis now to convince the UAE they need the same kit, for there newly formed military partnership.

  4. Step forward – look forward to the deal closing.

    If it does that will be a very good day.

    Belgium and Germany to decide on their’s next, this can’t do any harm.

    At the rate we’re using up air-frame hours, is there a case for increasing numbers or replacements?

    • Definitely a case I would have thought for stationing Meteor, Brimstone and Captor-E Typhoons in the Baltics. The Germans should have them too. With Spear 3 even better.

  5. Thank you KSA for your continued of the UK aerospace industry.

    Lightnings, Tornados and now Typhoons.

    Total contracts including support worth in excess £100bn in 2017 valuations.

  6. KSA has deliberate defence policy were it procures major equipment from different nations. So if politics interfered with arms supplies they would still be well equipped from another source. Of course they have the luxury of being able to afford this due to oil revenues.

    The army had USA equipped units in one part of the country while in another French/european equipped ones.

    The Navy has two fleets, one in the red sea one in the Arabian sea. One is USA equipped the other French/European equipped.

    The airforce is part USA equipped and UK equipped.

    • I thought BAE was in with a really good chance of selling the T45 to Saudi as part of a long term anti ballistic missile strategy but I guess the technology was still to far off and the engines not working in warm water didn’t help. The UK really needs to start winning export orders on it’s ships as Italy, Spain, Germany and France have been winning orders hand over fist.

  7. Politics aside this is excellent news for the workforce at Warton and the Typhoon project as a whole.The Typhoon is in a completely different ballpark compared to the Rafale in terms of exports.Please can our Government find the funds to buy just a few more !

  8. could this help drive down cost of typhoon? I guess the orders just aren’t big enough or continuous enough to get true economies of scale.

    the order isn’t placed yet but I assume these will be AESA equipped, Brimstone, Storm Shadow, Meteor? what about conformal fuel tanks?

  9. This is good news for the production lines and future upgrades for the Eurofighter
    It should keep the Eurofighter at the forefront of fighter technology for the next 10 years.
    The fact is that Saudi Arabia are so rich they can easily afford to drop a few crumbs our way to keep us on side and in their well lined very deep pockets.
    Still if we did not sell them Eurofighter, France would happily sell Raffle or Russia the SU35 series.
    I think there is room for more Eurofighter in RAF service yet, tranche 4 with AESA radar and Japanese long range AA missile, pretty potent.

  10. Great news, stand by for another RAF Typhoon Sqn, Stand by though for a delay in the future platforms (unmanned future – UCAV etc).
    This pays for the outstanding Meteor work and AESA work that needs to be funded.
    Imagine that, the RAF funded by the KSA

  11. Good. Just good.

    Only the west, U.S.A. and Israel stoke up wars. Have you noticed? Russia and its client Syria use chemical weapons and deliberately target hospitals; how many dead in Syria compared to Yemen? It is all bad news but hardly a word of complaint goes east, just a few tut, tuts. The Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has pocketed large sums of money from Russia Today and Press T.V., the Iranian mouthpiece, and has now been outed as a member of secretive facebook group that is awash with anti-Semites, anti-democratic conspiracy peddlers and even worse types. He is jumping up and down with rage at news of this deal you can be certain.

    This country has its own interests to look for in an often harsh reality. No one else will do this for us. Every other country in the world has that right I am told. Why not this one?

  12. The RSAF like Typhoon especially as they will be bolting Storm Shadow on them. The numbers of SS’s fired into Yemen is huge!

      • Typhoon is only the mechanism of transport, it’s the weapon systems that make the aircraft. Storm Shadow is not ITAR constrained and gives KSA flexibility in weapon systems. It also pays for the Storm Shadow MoD life update, something the RAF cannot currently afford. It allows access to Meteor and a variety of other SPEAR 3 weapon systems. That what the KSA really want access to, Typhoon is the mechanism.

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