ROME — Kuwait has started discussions to buy up to 28 Eurofighters, a source with knowledge of the talks told Defense News.

Kuwait is discussing the deal with the Italian Defense Ministry, the Italian Air Force and Italian firm Alenia Aermacchi, which is the Eurofighter partner company that has led the Eurofighter marketing campaign in Kuwait.

Talks started last Sunday May 31 and representatives of the Italian Defense Ministry, Air Force and Alenia Aermacchi are currently in Kuwait participating, the source said.

The talks cover the possible acquisition of two squadrons — or between 24 and 28 aircraft — plus training and logistics, the source added.

Under a military cooperation deal signed between Italy and Kuwait, two groups of Kuwaiti pilots have already trained at the Italian Air Force's training school in Lecce in southern Italy.

The report that Kuwait is talking to Italy follows aReuters reports last month that the US government was in discussions with Kuwait to sell up to 40 Boeing F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet strike fighters.

Another source noted that a Kuwaiti deal for Eurofighters would not necessarily affect a potential foreign military sale for the Boeing aircraft.

"There has always been the possibility for a split buy," the other source said Thursday. "Talks with the US government about a Super Hornet sale are still moving forward."

The gulf state has been evaluating new fighters for two years.

A Eurofighter deal would be welcome news for the European consortium building the aircraft, which consists of Italy's Finmeccanica, BAE Systems and Airbus, after the French Rafale scooped new orders from Egypt and Qatar.

Apart from the air forces of Britain, Italy, Spain, Austria and Germany, Saudi Arabia also operates the Eurofighter, and Oman has placed orders.

Christopher P. Cavas in Washington contributed to this story.