LONDON — Negotiations between the U.K. and Qatar for the purchase of Typhoon fighters and Hawk jet trainers by the Gulf state are complete, and the two sides are now looking for a suitable date to sign the deal, according to a senior BAE Systems official.
“I would not like to speculate on the exact date it will be signed. ... We have concluded all of our discussions, we have no more negotiations to do with the Qataris, the contract is done. It’s purely down to when there is the right window to have it signed,” Chris Boardman, the managing director of BAE Systems’ military air and information business, told the British Parliament’s Defence Select Committee on Tuesday.
Boardman urged the British government to provide clarity on its vision for combat air requirements in a post-Typhoon era.
On Sept. 17 in the Qatari capital of Doha, then-British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced he had signed a statement of intent on the proposed purchase with his counterpart, Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah.
In what must be some kind of record, the two sides have gone from signing a statement of intent to concluding negotiations in little more than six weeks for the supply of 24 Eurofighter Typhoons and six BAE Hawks to the Gulf state.
A spokesman for BAE said inking of the deal could take place by mid-December, although there is currently no commitment to a date.
Assuming the deal is signed, it will be the first Typhoon sale by the British since the Ministry of Defence took over responsibility for leading the government’s Typhoon export sales effort from the Defence and Security Organisation, the department responsible for most overseas sales in the sector.
The value of the Qatari deal is unknown, but it will run into the billions of pounds for the British aerospace industry as well as Airbus and Leonardo, their European partners in the Eurofighter program.
Boardman hinted at a prolonged delivery schedule for the Qatari Typhoons, telling the parliamentary committee the deal will stretch assembly of the fast jet at BAE’s Warton site in northwest England to 2024. The current order book delivering jets to the Britusg Royal Air Force, Oman and Kuwait is set to end in 2022, he said.
With a dearth of Hawk orders, Boardman said BAE had already started low-level manufacturing work at their own risk on the Gulf state’s jet trainer purchase.
The Qataris already have a done deal from earlier this year with the U.S. for the purchase of 36 Boeing F-15QA jets for $12 billion. In 2015, the Gulf nation purchased 24 Dassault Rafale fighters for about $7.6 billion.
The 72-strong fleet of fighter jets will eventually replace a current Qatar Emiri Air Force fast-jet capability of just 12 Mirage 2000s.
The air power buildup is part of a major military expansion effort across air, land and sea by Qatar.
The deal comes as Qatar is still in the midst of an economic and diplomatic boycott by Saudi Arabia and its regional allies who accuse Doha of funding terrorism groups and cosying up to Iran.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.