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Boeing still in UAE fighter jet contest

Manama, January 21, 2012

Boeing said it remains a contender to sell fighter jets to the UAE, after a much-awaited $10 billion deal with France's Dassault hit a roadblock in November.

"The UAE deal is still being treated as an open competition," Paul Oliver, Boeing's vice-president for international business development for Middle East & Africa, told Reuters at the Bahrain Air Show On Friday.

The world's largest company operating both in commercial aerospace and defence has briefed UAE officials on its F-15 and F-18 combat planes, Oliver said in an interview.

The UAE, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, said in November the proposed terms of a widely expected contract with Dassault for the sale of at least 60 Rafale warplanes were unworkable. That setback threw open the competition to other players, with the UAE asking to see details of a rival aircraft, the Typhoon built by Eurofighter, a consortium of companies from France, Germany, Italy and Britain.

"I can say that it's a heated competition .... we are responding to customer requests when they come in," Oliver said. "I've no reason to believe that this is not still being treated as an open competition."   

Dassault, which is struggling to make a Rafale sale outside France, is still in talks with the UAE.

The UAE and its Gulf neighbours, threatened by Iran and internal unrest, have been steadily building up their military capabilities. Last month, the US government sealed a $29.4 billion deal for advanced Boeing F-15 fighter jets for Saudi Arabia and the UAE inked a $3.5 billion deal with the United States for an advanced antimissile interception system. 

Oliver said the US firm is hopeful of landing another fighter jet deal in the Gulf this year. "We hope to see potentially an announcement this year but these are all competitive and all government-to-government type transactions. But we are optimistic and we may see a decision in the region for another fighter aircraft," he said.

The US plane manufacturer said both its fighter jets are being looked at closely by Gulf customers.      Boeing will not make any announcements at the Bahrain show, he said, but the company saw big opportunities in the region for their defence business. He said Boeing had no plans to get back into the Indian fighter jet competition.

"The customers made a decision and we respect that. We are not trying to get in there....muddy the waters or anything like that."     

That leaves the Eurofighter and Dassault in a race to sell India 126 fighter jets and help revamp the country's defence industry. The deal is expected to be worth around $10 billion. American, Russian and Swedish bids were rejected in April.    

 The Eurofighter consortium includes Britain's BAE Systems , Italy's Finmeccanica and EADS which represents Germany and Spain. - Reuters




Tags: UAE | Boeing | Fighter jet | Dassault | F18 |

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