The Raytheon's Paveway IV precision-guided bomb is flown on the UK's Tornado and Typhoon jets. (Raytheon)
GLENROTHES, SCOTLAND — Raytheon UK’s Paveway IV precision-guided bomb has secured its first export customer, following US congressional approval for a deal to supply weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Export of the Paveway IV to the Saudis has been held up for several years by the refusal of the US State Department to give clearance for US components included in the weapon.
Raytheon UK officials briefing reporters at the company’s facility here confirmed they had signed their first Paveway IV export customer, but said they were not able to identify the nation involved.
Saudi Arabia, though, has been previously identified as the first potential export customer by numerous media organizations.
John Michel, the weapons business director at Raytheon UK, said the contract was signed in December and approved by the US Congress in February.
Michel said weapons would be produced over the next two years, with the first bombs handed over in about 18 months.
Trevor Taylor, a senior analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank, said it was difficult to be specific about why the State Department had blocked the sale of Paveway for so long.
“Was it because they didn’t want the Saudis to have the capability, or was there concern more about not enhancing the competitiveness of the Typhoon,” Taylor said.
Raytheon officials declined to say how much the deal was worth, but the value is believed to be in the region of £150 million (US $247 million), industry sources have said.
To date, only the UK’s Royal Air Force has purchased the Paveway IV; it is deployed on Tornado and Typhoon jets. Saudi Arabia operates both types of combat aircraft.
Raytheon UK is closing production of a British order to replenish Paveway IV stocks run down by operations against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Raytheon officials at the briefing said the company has delivered 4,000 of the 500-pound warhead guided bombs to the British.
Michel said approval of the export deal by the US should open the way for possible upcoming orders from other Typhoon customers, including Oman. The gulf nation has ordered a squadron’s worth of Typhoons but deliveries have yet to get underway.