Bahrain in talks over possible Eurofighter deal: BAE

LONDON Wed Aug 7, 2013 9:05am EDT

A BAE systems sign is seen outside the company's Warton site near Preston, northern England, October 1, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble

A BAE systems sign is seen outside the company's Warton site near Preston, northern England, October 1, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - British defense firm BAE Systems (BAES.L) said the Gulf state of Bahrain was in talks about the possibility of buying an unspecified number of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets.

The Eurofighter combat jet is made by BAE Systems and Italian weapons maker Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI), and EADS EAD.PA, representative of Germany and Spain, with each taking responsibility for particular campaigns.

"Bahrain has expressed an interest in Typhoon and the British government are leading very early discussions; BAE Systems is supporting the government in these discussions," a BAE Systems spokeswoman said.

The Eurofighter consortium is targeting exports as European governments slash defense budgets and has so far sold jets to Austria, Saudi Arabia and Oman outside the core four countries.

It is also vying for orders in South Korea, Kuwait, Qatar, Bulgaria and Denmark. The Eurofighter's main competitors include Lockheed Martin's (LMT.N) F-35 jet, Dassualt Aviation's (AVMD.PA) Rafale fighter and the Gripen by Sweden's Saab (SAABb.ST).

Earlier on Wednesday Bahrain's national news agency reported that Bahrain's King Hamad al-Khalifa, who is currently in the UK, had told British Prime Minister David Cameron that the Gulf state was interested in buying Eurofighter jets to "create a cohesive defense system between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)" nations.

The GCC is made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

This could be good news for the Eurofighter consortium's attempts to secure a deal for the jet with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was expected to finalize a $10 billion agreement for France's Dassault Rafale fighter last year before talks faltered, giving the group hope of stealing the deal.

Britain will hope its historic ties with Gulf Arab states, many of them former British protectorates and regional allies, will help it secure a deal with Bahrain, securing jobs BAE's Typhoon production line - at Warton in northwest England.

(Reporting by Rhys Jones; editing by Kate Holton and Louise Heavens)