European defence group insisted it is still in the running to sign a multi-billion dollar deal for fighter jets for the United Arab Emirates. The British ministers expressed their hope on Tuesday amid reports that France is close to clinching the multibillion contract.
France has been courting the Gulf Arab state to reach a $10 billion agreement with weapons-maker Dassault since last year, but talks broke down after the UAE dismissed what it called “uncompetitive and unworkable” deal terms.
A French newspaper reported in February the Dassault deal was back on track, with Abu Dhabi ready to buy 60 of its Rafale jets in next few months.
The French firm expects this deal to be another boost after receiving ‘preferred bidder status’ from India in another a fighter deal.
However, two British ministers said they are still persuading the UAE to ditch Rafale in favour of the Eurofighter Typhoon, built by a consortium from Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Asked by Reuters if there was still a chance of a deal, British Trade and Investment Minister Stephen Green told: “I certainly think there is a real possibility, (although) there is a significant competitor, as we all know.
“There has been a lot of ministerial engagement,” he added while speaking at the sidelines of a meeting of business leaders aimed at boosting Britain’s trade links with the UAE in sectors ranging from defence and infrastructure to health and technology.
Another British minister, Gerald Howarth, said the UK government continued to back Eurofighter’s campaign in the UAE, an ally of the United States and one of the world’s biggest oil exporters.
“There is real hope for substantial partnership should the UAE select the Typhoon,” he said. “It is now a real possibility thanks to both the intervention of the prime minister and of course the response from the UAE,” the minister for international security strategy said in a statement.
Eurofighter is battling out with Dassault as well as Lockheed’s F-35 fighter and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet to seal a multi-billion dollar deal with the oil rich Gulf country.
The Eurofighter, jointly owned by Britain’s BAE Systems, Finmeccanica of Italy and European aerospace group EADS on behalf of Germany and Spain.
Asian and Middle Eastern countries have provided a lifeline to Western defence makers who are struggling to find defence contracts amid defence budget cuts by recession-hit developed nations.
BAE Systems insisted Britain and the UAE had the best chance in a generation to reach a deal that would help both countries.
“We see Typhoon as a potential catalyst not only in the defence relationship but in the industrial relationship,” Alan Garwood, group business development director, told the meeting.