Robert Courts discusses export of British Typhoon fighters
Germany’s bid to derail a UK deal to sell Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia is a “hugely concerning” development which represents the UK’s “entire defence perspective” at risk, the new chairman of Parliament’s powerful Defence Committee has warned.
Robert Courts was commenting on reports that Germany, a stakeholder in the Eurofighter Typhoon programme, is blocking plans to sell 48 jets to the Saudis.
Insiders have consequently voiced their concerns about the implications for the 6,000 people who work for manufacturer BAE Systems.
To make the situation worse, France is understood to be plotting to take advantage by selling its own Rafale jets to the desert kingdom instead.
A memo circulating among top officials in Whitehall predicts that if the Typhoon deal does not go ahead, the UK’s “combat air industrial base” could take a £15billion hit, The Sun reports.
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Mr Courts, the Tory MP for Witney, who described the situation on X as “hugely concerning”, told Express.co.uk: “One of the things we have to rebuild as a country is our supply lines and the ability to build Sovereign capability and this is never more important than in the combat air space.
“We have outstanding aircraft in Typhoon, it’s one of the best multi-role aircraft in the world, but we’re also looking to the successor to that, which is Tempest.
“In order to do that you need to have the export capability, you’re going to need to sell them abroad, because the Royal Air Force won’t be able to buy enough to make that program worthwhile on its own. That’s the first, most important thing.”
The second thing aspect was jobs in order to deliver that sovereign capability, Mr Courts stressed.
He continued: “So I would ask any partners that are making it harder to export aircraft to think very carefully about what that means in the long term.
“Because if we aren’t able to export we don’t have the production lines running, which means we don’t have the skills and we don’t have the jobs.
“That imperils our Sovereign capability, it imperils our defence perspective and it imperils future programs.”
Any threat to the UK defence industry had wider implications, Mr Courts stressed, with the aftermath of the war in Ukraine showing “as never before” the importance of Britain having the freedom to produce vital military equipment.
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He added: “One of the things we’ve been talking about in committee from a procurement perspective is the fact that we need an ongoing drumbeat of orders.
“You can’t simply have the feast or famine approach that we’ve seen in the past, which means it makes it very difficult for the industry to thrive and to provide the kit that we need.
“So if there’s a threat to UK industry, there’s a threat to UK sovereignty and anything that’s a threat to the UK as one of the most powerful military and economic partners in NATO will clearly become a threat to the entire alliance into the West.”
Express.co.uk understands there is no prospect of BAE’s production line closing in the near future, with work guaranteed until the end of the decade.
RAF Typhoon jets intercept Russian bombers in February
The Typhoon is described by the RAF as “a highly capable and extremely agile multi-role combat aircraft, capable of being deployed for the full spectrum of air operations”.
With a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 (almost twice the speed of sound), it is capable of flying at altitudes of 55,000 feet.
It is equipped with and internal 27mm Mauser cannon; ASRAAM, Meteor and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles; enhanced Paveway II and Paveway IV precision-guided bombs, and Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-ground missiles.
A BAE spokesman said: “We are supporting UK Government discussions with Saudi Arabia.”
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