British Eurofighters to Oman?
Oman has a long history of close relations with Britain, and this carries over into that country’s defense equipment. The al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Sultanat Oman (RAFO) currently has 3 fighter squadrons. RAFO 10 squadron finished its conversion from Jaguar strike aircraft to F-16C/D Block 50/52+ fighters in 2006, but 8 sq and 20 sq continue to operate the old Jaguars [vid. extreme low-level flight video]. All are formally based at Thumrayt in the southwest, near the border with Yemen and away from the entrance to the Gulf. With that said, they have been known to operate from Seeb air base in the northeast, near the capital of Muscat.
In November 2008, Britain’s Financial Times reported that the remaining Jaguars may be next on the replacement block, as BAE Systems is in direct talks with the Omani government to sell them up to 24 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. The deal’s rumored value is GBP 1.4 billion (about $2.08 billion), which is slightly low but not wildly out of line with past Eurofighter purchases. That move would complete the RAFO’s fighter recapitalization, offering it an air fleet that could operate within the Gulf Cooperation Council alongside Bahraini and UAE F-16s, and forthcoming Saudi Eurofighters, while remaining relevant and competitive for many years to come. Financial Times | Agence France Presse.
The discussions come against the backdrop of negotiations over the Eurofighter partner nations’ Tranche 3 purchases…
These Eurofighters will be the most capable, with full ground attack capabilities built in. Nevertheless, Europe’s unwillingness to invest in defense has created a potential squeeze, with Italy likely to be hardest hit. Germany recently pledged to buy its full allotment of 68 Tranche 3 Eurofighters, with Secretary of Defense Franz-Josef Jung commenting that “before one would pay for [contract cancellation penalty fees], it makes more sense to rather take the aircraft.”
The UK MoD is also facing growing financial constraints, which are likely to lead to hard decisions about key military programs. Further Eurofighters are a lower priority, as it has modified a number of its Tranche 1 aircraft to give them some precision attack capabilities, and has other aircraft such as the existing Tornado GR4s and forthcoming F-35Bs to fill the strike role. On the other hand, contract cancellation penalties could place them in the same situation as Germany. Unless, of course, they can drum up export orders and re-sell their Tranche 3 aircraft.
With competitions in Switzerland and India a long shot, and Greece’s fighter competition too uncertain and long-term, the Gulf states and Japan stand out as having both the wealth to afford the $100+ million fighters, and the need for such a capable platform.
See “Oman Looks to Replace Its Jaguar Jets” for all updates; the RAFO did end up buying 12 Eurofighters.