Typhoon leads race for jet deal

An Italian air force Eurofighter Typhoon jet takes off from the Gioia del Colle air base near Bari, Southern Italy, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Moammar Gadhafi's forces shelled rebels regrouping outside a strategic eastern city on Tuesday and his snipers and tanks controlled the streets of the last opposition-held city in the west, signaling a prolonged battle ahead. An American fighter jet crashed over the North African country, both crew ejecting safely. (AP Photo/Donato Fasano)

An Italian air force Eurofighter Typhoon jet takes off from the Gioia del Colle air base near Bari, Southern Italy, Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Moammar Gadhafi's forces shelled rebels regrouping outside a strategic eastern city on Tuesday and his snipers and tanks controlled the streets of the last opposition-held city in the west, signaling a prolonged battle ahead. An American fighter jet crashed over the North African country, both crew ejecting safely. (AP Photo/Donato Fasano)

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HOPES are high BAE Systems is closing in on a £7bn deal to sell the Typhoon to the Indian government.

The Warton-built war plane has been shortlisted along with the French Dassault Rafale to meet India’s requirement for 126 jets for its air force.

The Typhoon scored highest in a technical assessment by Indian pilots, but sources now say the aircraft’s performance in the Libyan conflict has put it further ahead in the battle to clinch the contract.

Although the contract would not save any of the 3,000 jobs currently on the line at BAE, it would help protect remaining posts.

Superior

Any deal with India is likely to include a workshare agreement which would see some manufacturing take place in the sub continent.

According to reports, the Typhoon’s superior capability and newly proven track record operationally have put it ahead of the Rafale – despite the British craft being more expensive.

The Indian air force already has a fleet of Warton-built Hawks, which are used to train pilots before they graduate to the Typhoon. India is expected to make an announcement before Christmas.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “It is down to the last two but a deal is never done until it’s done.

“However I know BAE Systems is working flat out to secure the deal and the British Government is doing everything possible at the highest level to support the work of BAE.

“Securing this contract would have a clear benefit to the workforce at Warton and Samlesbury.

“Typhoon is an outstanding aircraft and has been proven operationally in Libya so no-one can doubt this is an aircraft which is world leading.

“It has been tried and tested in Libya and proven to be a superb aircraft within that theatre.”

Last year BAE secured a £500m deal to sell 57 Hawk trainer jets to India with the aircraft being built under licence in the sub-continent.

But the Typhoon deal, if secured, would see parts for at least the first 34 aircraft in the order manufactured at BAE’s factories in Warton and Samlesbury.

Export orders are expected to be increasingly important for Typhoon, which is jointly build by Britain, Italy, Germany and Spain, as domestic demand for the jet slows down.

The Indian Government wants a new plane in service with its air force by 2015.

Nations such as Qatar, Oman and Malaysia provide other potential export opportunities.

Another rival for these contracts is from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being developed in the US, but that will not enter service for a few years yet.