Saudi, UK ministers agree to study combat air cooperation -Saudi agency

(Reuters) - Saudi and British defence ministers have agreed to study future co-operation on combat air capabilities and potential industrial projects, the Saudi state news agency reported.

Saudi Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman and British Defence 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.

FCAS is an acronym widely used for next-generation fighter projects known as Future Combat Air Systems, including the British-led Tempest programme which was recently expanded to include Japan under a new framework called Global Air Combat Programme.

The brief official Saudi media report did not indicate whether Riyadh was planning to join the British-led fighter programme directly, but defence 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.

The British Defence 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.

(Reporting by Alaa Swilam and Tim Hepher; additional reporting by Rhea Binoy in Bengaluru; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Stephen Coates and Himani Sarkar)