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U.K., Saudi Arabia discuss fighter sales


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British Defense Minister Liam Fox is heading to Saudi Arabia for arms sales discussions, which will include a long-stalled $31.6 billion fighter aircraft deal.

The original 2007 contract was for Britain's BAE Systems to provide Saudi Arabia with 72 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft, of which 48 were to be assembled inside the kingdom by local companies under technology sharing agreements, the Saudi-U.S. Relations Information Service reported Friday.

While the planes themselves were worth $7 billion, cost overruns have caused the project's final bottom line to soar. Defense analysts estimate the final total cost of the project at $31.6 billion.

The first 12 Eurofighter Typhoons have been delivered and London is hoping to negotiate the sale of another 36 or 72 aircraft.

Complicating the picture for Britain is Saudi Arabia's recent $60 billion defense contract with the United States, which includes F-15 fighter jets and Apache, Blackhawk and Little Bird helicopters. A number of U.S. congressmen have vowed to block the sale, alleging that Saudi Arabia is insufficiently committed to combating terrorism.
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