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Sat 3 Apr 2010 08:43 AM

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Oman intends to buy Eurofighters - UK

Potential deal followed three years of talks between London and Oman - UK official.

Oman intends to buy Eurofighters - UK
(Getty Images)

Oman intends to buy an unspecified number of Eurofighter warplanes, Britain said on Friday.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the potential deal followed three years of talks between London and Oman. No details of the size, cost or timing of any sale were released.

Media reports in late 2008 said Oman was in talks with BAE Systems to buy 24 Eurofighter Typhoons worth at least 1.4 billion pounds ($2.13 billion).

Neither the government or BAE would say if the deal involves planes originally intended for Britain's Royal Air Force. Under pressure to cut defence budgets, Britain last year resisted buying a third batch of Typhoons, before relenting following appeals from Germany, defence sources said.

Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain reached a compromise deal under which they agreed to split the third delivery into two parts, known as tranches 3A and 3B. However, UK defence procurement minister Quentin Davies told Reuters in 2009 Britain was under no commitment to buy further jets after he signed a deal for 40 planes as part of tranche 3A.

A BAE Systems spokesman declined to comment on the announcement, but issued a short statement: "Oman is a country with which we have a long and valued relationship and stand ready and willing to support any requirement it has." If confirmed, the deal would give a boost to the Eurofighter project after years of uncertainty over whether EU countries would agree to buy the full number of jets they signed up for.

The four countries signed a deal to build 620 of the planes in 1998. Supporters say the Typhoon is a fast and agile plane suited to a range of roles, but critics dismiss it as an expensive relic of the Cold War era. Saudi Arabia bought 72 Eurofighter Typhoons in 2006 and India is considering buying the aircraft for its $11 billion fighter jet contract.

BAE makes the Eurofighter with Italian group Finmeccanica and European aerospace group EADS. The engines are supplied by a group led by Rolls-Royce and Germany's MTU Aero Engines. It competes with Lockheed Martin's F-16, Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet, France's Dassault Rafale, Russia's MiG-35 and Sweden's Saab JAS-39 Gripen. ($1=.6580 Pound) (Reuters)

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