In 2018, Britain’s BAE Systems secured a contract to supply 48 jets, but because a third of the components for these jets originate from Germany, its veto power has now become a direct challenge to both BAE and the UK government. This situation is likely to result in job losses within the defense and manufacturing sectors in the UK. This rejection could potentially lead to the loss of 6,000 jobs provided by the British Aerospace (BAE) company involved in the agreement.
The multi-billion-dollar agreement was established between the UK and Saudi Arabia to provide Eurofighter jets to the UK. However, since certain components must be sourced from Germany, Berlin has suspended the project on the grounds of Saudi Arabia’s support for the Houthis in Yemen and its perceived involvement in the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
Germany has taken a firm stance compared to its main allies, the United States, France, and Britain, and has ceased the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Despite extensive lobbying efforts by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Germany remains resolute in its position. Britain has pointed out that Saudi Arabia is already on a path toward reconciliation, and if BAE cannot fulfill the contract, it could seriously strain bilateral relations.
Rafale as an Alternative
The Typhoon fighter planes are manufactured through joint venture agreements involving Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo, with Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH serving as the primary management entity for the project. The recent firm stance taken by the German Chancellor against supplying Eurofighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia has garnered criticism both domestically and internationally.
In light of this, Saudi Arabia is currently in discussions with Dassault to potentially acquire 54 Rafales, which is a testament to France’s excellence in engineering and defense weapons technology, particularly with the success of the twin-engine multirole fighter aircraft, Rafale. The United Arab Emirates has already entered into a contract with Dassault to procure 80 F4 Rafale fighters, the latest variant of this 4.5-generation fighter aircraft.
Should BAE in the UK fail to provide Typhoon aircraft, Saudi Arabia’s airbase, which currently primarily consists of US-F-15s and UK-Eurofighters, may consider incorporating France’s Rafale as an alternative option.
The potential loss of this deal would indeed have severe repercussions, particularly for the air base and the UK market. While Germany remains steadfast in its approach, it’s the UK market that is facing the turmoil. A decline in Eurofighter sales and the looming job market crisis pose significant challenges for the UK, making the situation even more critical for its economic and defense sectors.