Britain's Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, arrives for a press conference following a meeting with Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Italy's Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, and Italy's Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani at Villa Madama in Rome, Feb 9, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
Saudi and British defense ministers have agreed to study future cooperation on combat air capabilities and potential industrial projects, the Saudi state news agency reported.
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace met in Riyadh on Wednesday and signed a "declaration of intent regarding the participation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Future Air Capabilities Program (FCAS)", it said.
The scope of the accord was not immediately clear.
In this Aug 29, 2019 file photo, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman meets with then-US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon in United States. (PHOTO / AP)
The British Defense ministry said the statement of intent signed in Riyadh would initiate a "Partnering Feasibility Study to explore how we can best position our decades long combat air relationship for the future"
FCAS is an acronym widely used for next-generation fighter projects known as Future Combat Air Systems, including the British-led Tempest program which was recently expanded to include Japan under a new framework called Global Air Combat Program.
READ MORE: Report: Japan, UK to sign military reciprocal access deal
The brief official Saudi media report did not indicate whether Riyadh was planning to join the British-led fighter program directly, but defense analysts cautioned that such alliances typically take months or years to negotiate.
The Saudi report said areas covered by the declaration included "defining a comprehensive and joint vision for the future partnership for air combat operations" and discussing partnerships that "meet the needs of the required capabilities".
It said identifying industrial participation projects and joint research and development projects were also included.
ALSO READ: Italy demands equal weight in UK, Japan fighter partnership
The British Defense ministry said the statement of intent signed in Riyadh would initiate a "Partnering Feasibility Study to explore how we can best position our decades long combat air relationship for the future".
The ministry, in its statement, added that the two nations confirmed a common desire for closer industrial collaboration and to develop key capabilities, but made no reference to the FCAS fighter project.