UK trainers jets will help Saudi pilots "to use fourth generation jet fighters," a Saudi official is quoted as saying
British Royal Air Force's Red Arrows aerobatics team fly BAE Systems Hawks during a display in Abu Dhabi in 2006. Saudi's defence ministry has signed a $3 billion deal with Britain to buy trainer jets for the kingdom's air force, SPA state news agency reports. © null - AFP/File
UK trainers jets will help Saudi pilots
Last updated: May 23, 2012

Saudi signs $3 billion deal with UK to buy air force trainer jets

Saudi Arabia has signed a $3-billion deal with Britain to buy trainer jets for the Gulf kingdom's air force, SPA state news agency said on Wednesday.

The agreement includes the provision of simulators, ground and training equipment and spare parts, SPA reported, quoting a Saudi defence ministry official.

The official said the new jets would help qualify Saudi pilots "to use fourth-generation jet fighters in full professionalism and efficiency."

British arms manufacturer BAE Systems said that following the agreement between the two countries, it had been awarded a contract equivalent to 1.6 billion pounds ($2.54 billion) "to support the future aircrew training requirements of the Royal Saudi Air Force."

"The contract includes the supply of 22 new Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft, 55 Pilatus PC-21 aircraft and other aircrew training equipment, as well as an initial support package including the provision of spares, technical publications and post design support," it said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

Saudi Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz in April visited Britain, a major supplier of weapons to the oil-rich kingdom.

Riyadh in 2006 ordered 72 Eurofighter Typhoons in a deal worth $32.9 billion, including armaments and long-term servicing. The multi-role fighter jet is built by a European consortium in which BAE Systems has a 33-percent share.

Saudi Arabia spends more than 10 percent of its gross domestic product on defence.

In September 2010, Washington revealed a deal worth up to $60 billion to sell F-15 fighters, attack helicopters and other defence equipment and services to the Saudis.

Britain signed in the 1980s its biggest ever arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the long-term Al-Yamamah agreement, which is said to have channeled around 40 billion pounds ($63.6 billion in current prices) into Britain's coffers.

The controversial deal was subject to investigation in London over alleged bribes paid to Saudi officials.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office had investigated claims that BAE Systems, one of the world's biggest weapons makers, ran a 60-million-pound ($95.4- million) slush fund for Saudi officials to attract contracts.

Graft rumours have long swirled around the deal which is a rolling programme of shipments of hi-tech military hardware.

But police ditched the probe in 2006, before anyone was prosecuted, after the British government came under pressure from the Saudi government.

Then prime minister Tony Blair defended the decision, which was strongly criticised by anti-corruption campaigners, saying the probe could threaten intelligence links with Saudi Arabia at a key point in the "war on terror."

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