RIYADH,(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia expects to conclude a deal with Britain for military aircraft soon, the kingdom”s defence minister said in remarks published on Wednesday.
Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, in comments reported by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, would not disclose details of the deal. But an industry expert in London said it could be worth as much as 10 billion pounds ($17.6 billion).
Prince Sulatan told reporters after talks with visiting British Defence Minister John Reid: "God willing, we hope to conclude in the near future a deal for modern planes with Britain."
Sources close to the negotiations have said the deal was likely to involve Saudi Arabia buying at least 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, with an option to raise that to 72. The sources did not give a value for the potential deal.
Francis Tusa, editor of London-based newsletter Defence Analysis, said Eurofighter Typhoon jets had a unit cost price of about 65 million pounds and that including weapons, support, training and other extras a deal for 48 jets could total 6 billion pounds.
Including options, the deal could reach 10 billion pounds, he added.
A senior source close to the deal told Reuters an accord might be signed later in the day after Reid meets Saudi King Abdullah.
The Eurofighter consortium includes BAE Systems, EADS and Italy”s Finmeccanica.
Officials at BAE in Riyadh and London declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for Britain”s Ministry of Defence would say only that "negotiations are continuing."
Saudi sources said the kingdom was also considering buying Rafale jets from France”s Dassault Aviation.