August 12, 2008:
Saudi Arabia is
negotiating to buy another 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighters, worth over $40
billion, from Britain. Last Fall, they finally signed a long anticipated
contract to buy 72 Typhoon jet fighters, for about $123 million each. Another
$10 billion will be spent on smart bombs, missiles and ammunition. There are
also several contracts for maintenance and support that total about $20
billion. About 700 Typhoons have been sold so far, and 150 delivered.
This contract was dogged by accusations of bribes paid to Saudi
officials. The Saudis consider this sort of thing normal. When British
prosecutors threatened to go after the guilty parties, the Saudis told the
Brits to call off the lawyers, or else over a hundred billion dollars of
business would go elsewhere. The British government complied. This new deal may be a way of saying thank
you, but is more likely an effort to buy more protection from an increasingly
belligerent Iran, and a future Iraq that will be armed like Americans, and,
worse yet, may fight like them.
The Typhoon is a somewhat stealthy multi-role fighter. It is fast,
maneuverable, and carries several tons of weapons. It also can be used for ground
attack missions. This 23 ton aircraft is the principal fighter in the air
forces of Britain, Spain, Germany, and Italy. The Typhoon is closer in capability
to the F-15, than the F-22, and is competing with the F-35 for many export
sales. The Typhoon gives Saudi Arabia an excellent air superiority fighter, and
120 of them would gives the kingdom excellent protection from any local
threats. Which is apparently the primary purpose of this purchase.
Back in the 1990s, the Saudis purchased 139 Eurofighter Tornado
aircraft, as well as a similar number of U.S. F-15s. Currently, the Saudi
Arabian air force is the most powerful in the Persian Gulf, largely because of
its modern aircraft, and heavy use of Western technicians and advisors to
maintain readiness and training standards.