DAVID Cameron today embarks on a three-day tour of the Gulf and Middle East in a bid to sell more British jets to the Arab states and bolster relations with key allies in the region.
The Prime Minister will personally spearhead a push to persuade the United Arab Emirates to buy 60 Typhoon jets from BAE Systems rather than French rivals in a deal reported to be worth upwards of £3 billion.
Tomorrow, he will travel on to Saudi Arabia – Britain's biggest trading partner in the region – which is also considering adding to its fleet of the aircraft.
Downing Street said the visit – his second to each country as premier – was part of a wider effort to build a "reinvigorated partnership" between Britain and the region's leaders.
Reinforced military ties are seen as crucial amid continued fears over Iran's nuclear ambitions and the risk that Tehran could seek to badly disrupt oil supplies by blocking the Strait of Hormuz.
Mr Cameron will fly to a military airbase near Dubai where a number of RAF Typhoons are stationed to promote the aircraft to military and political figures from the UAE.
He will also hold talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Prime Minister of the UAE on the potential for joint work on the next generation of military aerospace equipment.
Overall – including an expected deal with Oman – the Government hopes to secure deals for 100 Typhoons to the region in the coming year – worth at least £6bn to British firms.
It could prove vital to BAE Systems as it struggles to deal with massive defence spending cuts in the US and Europe and following the collapse of its planned merger with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company.
Mr Cameron will also take part in a question-and-answer session with students in Abu Dhabi and meet with UK business leaders at an investment event.
On Wednesday, Mr Cameron will hold talks in Downing Street with German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the crunch European Union budget summit later this month.