Saudi signs $3 billion deal with UK for BAE Hawk trainer jets

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has signed a $3 billion deal to buy 30 more Hawk jets from British defence group BAE Systems BAES.L to train pilots to fly the Eurofighter Typhoon jets which it has already ordered from BAE.

Saudi Arabia’s official news agency SPA quoted an unnamed official at the Saudi Defence Ministry on Wednesday as saying the deal, which includes the jets and related support services and devices, would help train “the Saudi air force to be able to use the fighter jets ... efficiently”.

A source familiar with the deal told Reuters the agreement is for 30 Hawk trainer aircraft with BAE. The company is expected to announce details later on Wednesday.

The sale provides some welcome relief for the British defence giant, which is battling against shrinking defence budgets in Europe and America.

However, the order is likely to come too late to save 845 jobs at BAE’s Hawk factory in Brough, Yorkshire, which is set to close.

Earlier this year, BAE said its chances of delivering profit growth in 2012 hinged on talks to finalise a range of contracts with Saudi Arabia in a year marked by tight government defence budgets.

In December the United States signed a $29.4 billion deal to sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in a long-expected move that the Obama administration said would boost Gulf security amid tension with Iran.

In 2007 Saudi Arabia signed the contract with BAE to buy 72 Typhoon aircraft, 24 of which have been delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force. The Salam deal, as it is known, is worth around 4.5 billion pounds ($7.3 billion).

Editing by Greg Mahlich