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ROME and DUBAI — Kuwait is expected to sign a deal to buy 28 Eurofighter aircraft on Jan. 31, an Italian Ministry of Defense source has told Defense News.

“Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti has been invited by Kuwait to attend the signing for 28 Eurofighter aircraft on Sunday in Kuwait,” the source said on Wednesday.

Italy, which is one of the four industrial partners on the Eurofighter program alongside the UK, Spain and Germany, has taken the lead in marketing the aircraft to Kuwait.

Two senior Kuwaiti Military officials confirmed to Defense News on Wednesday that the Minister of Defense Khaled al-Jarrah al-Sabah will sign the Eurofighter contract with Pinotti on Sunday.

One senior official said the decision came after repeated US delays regarding the acquisition of a new fleet of Boeing F-18 Super Hornets.

"We were trying to acquire the F-18 Super Hornets and replace the existing fleet of F-18s with Super Hornets and Eurofighter Typhoons," he said.  "However, we cannot wait for the American approval and need to update our Air Force now."

A second official stated that a meeting was held with Italian Air Force officials in Turin in mid-November.

"We have discussed the Eurofighter deal, which was expected to be finalized in Kuwait in December but was delayed due to problems on the pilot training," he said.

"Our Air Force wanted to send the pilots for training in the United Kingdom, not Italy, due to the language barriers; however the deal was finalized after there was an agreement on sending them to train in Italy," he added.

"The training program is expected not to take less than 18 months," he said.

A memorandum of understanding was first signed by Italy and Kuwait in September, and a final signature on the contract was initially expected by the end of 2015. The Kuwaiti parliament was required to sign off on the funding.

Kuwait has agreed to buy 22 single-seat and six twin-seat Typhoons in a government-to-government agreement. Italian firm Finmeccanica has been handling the industrial side of the sales push.

Industry sources have said the deal, which could be worth up to €8 billion (US $8.7 billion), could see the Kuwaitis become the first export customer for the active electronically scanned array radar being developed for the jet.

The aircraft are expected to be new-build, third tranche, swing-role versions of the fighter, with deliveries starting in 2019 and possibly covering munitions such as the Storm Shadow and Meteor.

An Italian source has said that over 50 percent of the value of the Eurofighter deal in Kuwait would be earned by Finmeccanica, which assembles the aircraft but also provides systems.

Email: tkington@defensenews.com

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