Saudi Arabia signs deal to purchase 48 Typhoon jets from Britain

Eileen GuzmanMar 10, 2018

But during the three-day visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the British government made clear that its agenda was to promote commerce and good relations, not to criticize the Saudi government.

As expected, the news came just after a meeting between the crown prince, who has rapidly consolidated his power and sidelined rivals, and Britain's defense minister, Gavin Williamson.

Difficulties in concluding the deal contributed to plans to cut almost 2,000 jobs at BAE Systems past year. Its aerospace division was forced to lay off 1,400 people last autumn due to lack...

BAE said the signing was "a positive step towards agreeing a contract for our valued partner".

"We are committed to supporting the Kingdom as it modernizes the Saudi Armed Forces and develops key industrial capabilities critical to the delivery of Vision 2030".

Asked by opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn whether she would condemn Saudi Arabia's "shocking abuse of human rights", Prime Minister Theresa May defended Britain's close ties with the authoritarian kingdom.

"A recent example is Qatar who signed a statement of intent for 24 Typhoons in September 2017 and then final contract in December 2017".

The 32-year-old crown prince has shaken up his deeply conservative country, pushing through dramatic social reforms, including allowing women to drive, and waging a massive crackdown that the ruling family says went after corruption, but critics say simply targeted his political foes.

He said both countries would be "much safer if you have a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia".

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said the United Kingdom had already licensed £4.6 billion of arms for Saudi Arabia since hostilities began in Yemen in 2015. It pits Saudi Arabia's Sunni Muslim monarchy against Yemen's Houthi rebel movement, which is backed by Shiite Muslim power Iran.

BAE, Europe's biggest defense contractor, has long awaited a major Saudi order for Typhoons, and slowed production in 2016 to ensure it would remain competitive.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is the most advanced swing-role combat aircraft available and there are nearly 500 in service across Europe.

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