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David Cameron is to announce a big push to export the Eurofighter Typhoon jet by equipping it with the weapons and radar whose absence was partly blamed for its loss in a $20bn contest to supply India with a new fleet.
Typhoon, produced by the UK’s BAE Systems, pan-European EADS and Italy’s Finmeccanica, this year lost the world’s biggest international fighter jet contest
to Rafale, made by France’s Dassault Aviation.
The Rafale was cheaper, could carry a larger array of weapons and had the latest radar technology. All three factors were cited by executives involved as having contributed to the Typhoon’s defeat. Dassault is now in exclusive negotiations with India.
The prime minister, who has lobbied heavily for Typhoon, is to tell executives on Monday that the integration of the Meteor missile, an electronically scanned radar, enhancements of the defensive aids system, further development of the air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities and integration of new weapons would all boost “the world-beating capabilities of this fantastic aircraft”.
Mr Cameron said the four partner nations – the UK, France, Italy and Spain – had agreed the enhancements but did not give details on deadlines or funding.
The plans, announced on the opening day of Farnborough Air Show, will be welcome news to executives who believe there is a chance India’s negotiations with Dassault will unravel. BAE told the this year that it was willing to lower the price of Typhoon for India while, more recently, Finmeccanica revealed the Eurofighter partners were completely revamping how they price the aircraft, standing on its head a 20-year-long approach seen as uncompetitive now that Typhoon is moving into competitive tenders in Asia and the Middle East.
Eurofighter expects to win an order from Oman and is bidding for contracts from the United Arab Emirates to Malaysia.
“The further development of Typhoon that we have been working on with our partners is good for the RAF who need this capability, good for our export customers, who want it too, and brilliant for the British manufacturers and British workers who are going to benefit,” Mr Cameron will say.
Executives have said the UK lags behind France, Italy, the US and Germany in being willing to acquire weapons with capabilities that may not entirely fit the UK’s needs, but nevertheless makes the product more attractive to foreign buyers, such as India.
With Europe and the US curtailing defence budgets, buyers from developing and oil-rich nations with more money to spare have become increasingly important to western defence contractors, such as BAE, EADS and Finmeccanica.