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The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extends through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.
The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.
Eurofighter: Design & Evolution
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The Eurofighter program emerged out of a long and conflicting set of multinational efforts to design a new European fighter. By 1983, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain had coalesced around the Future European Fighter Aircraft (FEFA) program. That partnership lasted only until 1985, as differences with France over carrier compatibility, weight limits, and French insistence on the lead industrial role, ended their partnership. Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain established Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH in 1986 to manage the Eurofighter project, while France went its own way and developed their Rafale fighter.
Both projects went on to develop clipped delta, canard-equipped twin-engine fighters, whose “radar shaping” designs significantly lowered their radar signature compared to earlier fighters like the Mirage F1, Tornado, or F/A-18A-D Hornet. Even so, it would be a misnomer to call these European jets stealth aircraft. The standard term is a “4+ generation” fighter, distinguishing them from “5th generation” aircraft like the American F-22A Raptor and Indo-Russian PAK-FA.
While the Rafale’s development emphasized weapon load and multi-role capabilities, squeezed budgets and ample fleets of strike aircraft led Eurofighter’s partner nations to focus on the air superiority role. An excellent aerodynamic design, very good thrust-to-weight ratio, and fast slew-and-point capability using its canards was fused with a very integrated set of electronic sensor and defensive systems, including a pilot-friendly cockpit design that offered the first use of voice commands in a fighter. This made Eurofighter’s Typhoon very capable in its chosen role, able to compete with or best serving opponents short of the American F-22A Raptor.
Typhoons even proved capable of armed supercruise during 2011 Libyan operations, but this was only possible with low-drag “4 + 2″ air-to-air missile configurations, at high altitudes, and to low Mach numbers.
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For air-to-air combat, the Eurofighter currently relies on long range detection using its mechanically-scanned, phased array ECR-90 CAPTOR radar and PIRATE IRST(Infra-Red Search & Track) system, coupled with a good array of advanced air-to-air weapons. Non-British Eurofighters will also have a 27mm Mauser cannon on board, considered by many observers to be the best fighter cannon on the market.
On defense, the Typhoon’s Praetorian (formerly EuroDASS) self-protection suite is designed for 360 degree coverage, with high automation. The Defensive Aids Computer (DAC) controls a package that includes Towed Radar Decoys, a Missile Approach Warner (MAW), wingtip ECM pods, and a Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS). They are integrated with each other, and with the Eurofighter’s radar and IRST.
Unfortunately for the consortium, this aerial combat strength ended up being the flip side of their biggest weakness. Initial “Tranche 1″ machines were severely hobbled on the export market by their poor ground attack capabilities, a serious weakness in a world of multi-role fighters. When combined with the plane’s $100+ million cost, the result has been a slew of lost export competitions. Dassault’s Rafale, which had gaps of its own, could not capitalize on that failing, and is still looking for its first export win. Embarrassingly, the Eurofighter has usually lost to modernized, multi-role versions of the very F-16s and F-15s it was meant to supplant. That, in turn, has affected both prices and the pace of upgrades.
A list of current weapons may help snap the plane’s evolution into clearer focus:
As the list above notes, the Tranche 2 fighters that began delivery to member countries in 2008 have added precision ground attack capabilities, but still fall short of the full capabilities and weapon arrays offered by competitors like the American F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15E Strike Eagle. Their lack of a helmet-mounted display (HMD) compounded this issue, preventing the Typhoon from taking full advantage of its new air-to-air missiles, and detracting from their ground attack capabilities. A BAE “Striker” HMSS Helmet-Mounted Display is in low-rate production now, but it didn’t become operational until 2011.
Tranche 3 Eurofighters will reportedly be based on the Tranche 2 standard, with upgraded power systems and electronics that can more easily support future growth and upgrades.
Those fleet-wide upgrades are ongoing. The most important upgrade remains a hoped-for “E-Scan” Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to replace the ECR-90, but it still doesn’t have a firm contract. The lack of an AESA radar leaves the Eurofighter a generation behind its American counterparts in radar technology, and until it catches up, it’s likely to suffer in export competitions. Unless a development contract comes soon, the platform may not even meet the consortium’s stated goal of an operational AESA radar by 2015.
Other upgrades that have been discussed but not committed have included upgraded thrust-vectoring engines to match modern Russian fighters and the American F-22, and even a Eurofighter carrier variant.
F-35A Lightning II
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Even as these upgrades are being discussed, however, the Eurofighter’s export window as a leading-edge fighter choice is closing. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is aerodynamically inferior, but it offers a stealth fighter with a tested AESA radar, a wider array of sensors, and sensor fusion at an even higher level. By the end of this decade, 5th generation projects like the Russo-Indian PAK-FA will also become viable choices for some export targets.
Successful upgrades can keep the Eurofighter Typhoon competitive, even in that environment, if its production line lasts long enough. The key word will be “competitive.” As an example, see this comparison of the Eurofighter vs. Saab’s single-engine contemporary, the 4+ generation JAS-39 Gripen. Saab already has a development contract for an ES-05 Raven AESA radar, and is significantly ahead in weapons integration:
Optional stores that have been integrated and qualified, or soon will be, can be found above. Expansion of the Typhoon’s ground attack weapon choices is an ongoing process, with planned weapons including long-range MBDA Storm Shadow and KEPD Taurus 350 cruise missiles, Diehl’s medium-range PILUM and HOSBO glide bombs, short-range MBDA Brimstone light strike missiles, and Raytheon’s AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles. Saudi Arabia reportedly wants to add the French Damocles surveillance and targeting pod to that list. The question, for current and future customers, is timing. Integration for those weapons isn’t underway yet, and until it’s done, the absence of key capabilities like long-range precision strike and anti-radar missiles will continue to hobble the Typhoon’s positioning as a fully multi-role aircraft.
Eurofighter: Industrial Structure & Orders
Eurofighter & Paveways
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Technically, the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) is the customer for the Eurofighter project. Eurofighter GmbH is the contractor, with joint ownership by all of the key industrial partners: BAE Systems, EADS, and Finmeccanica. Overall, Eurofighter GmbH cites a total of 100,000 supported jobs in 400 companies across Europe.
Aircraft production work shares were designed to correspond to the number of aircraft ordered under the 1998 Umbrella Contract:
37.5% UK (232). BAE Systems: Front fuselage including foreplanes, canopy, dorsal spine, tail fin, inboard flaperons, rear fuselage section.
30.0% Germany (180) EADS Deutschland: Main center fuselage. Airbus spinout Premium AEROTEC is the main sub-contractor.
19.5% Italy (121). Alenia Aeronautica: Left wing, outboard flaperons, rear fuselage sections
13.0% Spain (87). EADS CASA: Right wing, leading edge slats
The Eurofighter’s 2 EJ200 turbofans deliver 20,000 pounds thrust each in reheat mode, and are manufactured by the EUROJET partnership of Avio (Italy), ITP (Spain), MTU Aero Engines (Germany) and Rolls-Royce (UK).
The Euroradar consortium supplies the ECR-90 CAPTOR radar, and is developing the “E-Scan” AESA successor. It is led by Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems in Edinburgh, UK (formerly BAE Systems Avionics), and also includes EADS and Spain’s Indra.
The Eurofighter contract was designed to protect the fairness of each participants’ agreed manufacturing work shares, by making it very expensive to back out of committed orders. On the other hand, European defense spending continues to decline due to pressure from welfare state commitments and debt burdens, even as European military operational deployments and their costs have increased. Hence the fractious contract negotiations around Tranche 3, and also the investigation of foreign sell-offs by the member countries.
In June 2009, the partners took a diplomatic way out, splitting Tranche 3 into 2 parts. At the end of July 2009, the 4 partner nations placed a EUR 9 billion Tranche 3A order, which will keep production going for several more years. The table below summarizes the Eurofighter’s evolving production plans, from the original 1985 plan to the 1998 agreement, and then planned and actual orders for each production tranche.
Note that 24 of Britain’s Tranche 2 aircraft have been diverted to Saudi Arabia, in order to satisfy Saudi demands for early delivery. In response, Britain ordered 24 more Tranche 3 aircraft as replacements. In practice, this means that Britain has ordered only 16 of its originally planned 88 Tranche 3 Eurofighters – and high-level statements indicate that Tranche 3A agreement absolves Britain of the need to place any further Eurofighter orders. Other reports explain the gap by claiming that the other 48 British Tranche 3 aircraft will go to Saudi Arabia, meaning that all of Saudi Arabia’s 72 planes will have been siphoned off from British orders.
Maintenance contracts to keep the fleets in service involve a small core of multi-national contracts for key systems and general service, followed by a number of national umbrella contracts to address other areas, and then a set of national maintenance agreements that are less comprehensive. See the chart below for tracking of the main support contracts currently underway:
Tranche 3 and Beyond: Plans & Contracts
New dawn, or twilight?
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DID coverage focuses on purchases related to consortium aircraft buys under Tranche 3, platform improvement efforts, international opportunities, and sales. See the “Additional Readings” section for coverage of the comprehensive support contracts for the various countries, and of the Saudi and Austrian export deals.
Saudis abandon local assembly; Competitions in Denmark, South Korea; Problems in Germany?; New CEO has a big job ahead.
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Aug 7/13: Bahrain. BAE Systems says that Bahrain “has expressed an interest in Typhoon and the British government are leading very early discussions”. That’s new, and the motivation is interesting.
Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa reportedly told British Prime Minister David Cameron that they were interested in buying Eurofighter jets to “create a cohesive defence system between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)” nations. Saudi Arabia is the linchpin of the GCC, and Oman is a respected member. This is a clear dividend from their purchases, and the king’s comment may also be good news for prospective sales in the UAE (40-60 jets), Kuwait, and Qatar. At the same time, every one of these sales is expected to be hotly contested, and with competition in place or expected from Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed Martin’s F-16E/F, and Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Reuters.
Aug 1/13: Saudi Arabia. BAE’s 2013 Half-Year Results says that deliveries have resumed, with the Saudi fleet up to 28 fighters, construction beginning on new facilities, and pilot training in-country progressing:
“Four Typhoon aircraft were delivered in the first half, adding to the initial phase of 24 Typhoon aircraft deliveries between 2009 and the end of 2011…. A [GBP] 0.3bn contract was signed in March for the construction of airfield facilities at King Fahd Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Discussions on the provision of maintenance and upgrade facilities in-Kingdom, and further capability enhancement of the Typhoon aircraft remain ongoing. Under an order received at the end of 2012 to deliver training to the RSAF, the first graduation ceremony of cadets from the King Faisal Air Academy was held in May .”
With respect to finalizing terms for Tranche 3 upgrades, BAE’s accompanying presentation cites “good progress,” and says “Significant trading bias to second half anticipated.” Translation: we expect a deal before the end of the year. That will need to be taken care of before BAE can talk about further sales, though they do cite a “KSA B2″ opportunity as one of their top prospects. Half-Year Results statement [PDF] and presentation [PDF] | Daily Mail.
July 7/13: Germany. Der Spiegel takes a strafing run at the Eurofighter program in Germany, pointing out both its budget overruns, and citing recent documents that discuss safety and quality issues with the planes. Germany and the other Eurofighter partners are expected to make their Tranche 3B decisions sometime in 2014, so the articles feed into a live political debate as an election approaches.
On the budgetary front, the Bundestag approved EUR 14.7 billion for 180 fighters, but Der Spiegel says that EUR 14.5 billion has already been spent on just 108 machines. The current Bundeswehr estimate is reportedly EUR 16.8 billion for 143 fighters (Tranche 1 through 3A) by 2018. That would average out to EUR 117.5 million/ $157 million per plane.
The 2nd issue involves quality control problems. On Oct 1/08, the military did not extend the Manching, Bavaria plant’s license to remain a Bundeswehr aviation site. Aircraft were still accepted after more detailed inspections, but that could leave the government liable in the event of a crash on German soil. Later, on April 18/13, an auditor from the Bundesamt fur Ausrustung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr (BAAINBw) in Koblenz cited the ejection seats as a fleet-wide problem area. Der Spiegel alleges that German quality control and inspections have suffered as a result of austerity measures and military “reforms,” but it isn’t the first time this has been publicly cited as an issue. In August 2010, an RSAF Lt. Col. and member of the Saudi Royal family was killed in a 2-seat Typhoon crash near Moron, Spain, when his parachute separated from the harness. His Spanish counterpart ejected safely. The accident led the RAF to modify its fleet’s ejection seat harnesses. Der Spiegel re: budgets [in German] | Der Spiegel re: reliability [in German] | Reuters.
July 5/13: South Korea. DAPA suspends bidding on its fighter competition, after none of the entries (Eurofighter, F-15SE, F-35A) could meet South Korea’s industrial demands, and performance specifications, and budget limits. Something clearly has to be rethought, if South Korea wants those fighters. If they don’t drop the number bought, then either the budget must be increased, or cost-adding elements like industrial offsets need to be revised, or the performance specifications need to be relaxed and new competitors contemplated. Yonhap | Yonhap follow-on.
July 2/13: Weapons. BAE announces that they have finished initial Paveway IV GPS/laser guided bomb trials with a Eurofighter, as part of the Phase 1 Enhancement Programme that will give Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 2 planes independent precision strike capabilities. Other elements of the program include the LITENING laser designation & surveillance pod, and EGBU-16 Enhanced Paveway laser/GPS guided bomb. BAE Systems.
June 20/13: Qatar. AFP says that the Middle Eastern Emirate intends to launch its RFP for 24-36 fighters “soon.” They own a fleet of Mirage 2000-5s, which recently flew to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.
French President Hollande will visit Doha for high-level economic talks on June 22, and France has close ties with the Emirate, but the Qataris aren’t waiting around. They reportedly spent time in May 2013 evaluating the Eurofighter Tornado with the RAF, and will soon host a Eurofighter team in-country for flight trials. Boeing also remains in the mix. Agence France Presse.
June 19/13: Industrial. New Eurofighter GmbH CEO and former Airbus Military head Alberto Gutierrez seems to understand what his firm needs to do. Now, can he do it? He tells Reuters:
“In this market, where we are, there is competition and we have to keep on going, finding out whatever improvement is available to catch up, to make the product cheaper and a way of getting into decisions leaner and faster…”
All true. The problem is, he has just admitted that his plane is behind competitors in key areas, too expensive, and hobbled by an industrial structure that doesn’t foster either lean costs or fast action. Fixing even 1 of those problems is a serious challenge. Fixing all 3 in time to land new orders, before the plane goes out of production, while keeping governments from derailing improvement plans, starts edging toward “Mission: Impossible” territory.
June 18/13: Weapons. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH signs a full weapon system integration contract with the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) for MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile. This will reportedly include 2-way datalink integration, which will offer parity with the JAS-39 Gripen and an advantage over the Dassault Rafale.
Germany became the last of the 6 core Meteor partners (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden) to sign a contract for missile stocks, on May 31/13. The NETMA contract completes the other coverage loop, and means that MBDA now has contracts to integrate its missile onto all 3 originally-envisaged platforms: the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen.
BAE had done some preliminary work (q.v. June 20/11, July 11/12) in Britain, which led to an unguided test firing (Dec 6/12). That was an excellent set of 1st steps to cut integration time for everyone, but that isn’t the same as full integration. Further design and test work on the missile system will continue at Alenia Aermacchi, BAE Systems, and EADS Cassidian… which doesn’t seem like a very efficient way to conduct things.
What the releases don’t say is when integration will be complete. Eurofighter GmbH has now confirmed the date as 2017. That’s about 3 years later than Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen (2014), and later than original Eurofighter forecasts of mid-2015, and but a year earlier than the French Rafale (2018). Eurofighter | MBDA | UK MoD | Aviation Week.
Full Meteor air-air missile integration contract
June 7/13: Engine. EUROJET Turbo GmbH celebrates the delivery of its 1000th EJ200 production engine, of over 1,500 orders places so far. This one was assembled at ITP for Spain, and the firm touts 789 engines in service so far on operational Eurofighter Typhoons. To date, the engines have accumulated over 390,000 flying hours. Eurojet [MS Word] | Eurofighter.
May 23/13: South Korea. EADS Cassidian reportedly announces that they would invest $2 billion in the K-FX fighter development project, and help market the plane internationally, if the Eurofighter is chosen for F-X-3. Investments would include a maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility that could extend to the KF-X, and an aerospace software center.
It isn’t a bad idea for EADS. Barring multiple orders from new sources, it’s very unlikely that the Eurofighter will still be in production by 2022. Upgrades and maintenance will continue for some time, but the C-203 KF-X design could offer EADS a new option to sell, with a fundamental design that can improve toward stealth fighter status. The question is whether South Korea wants to go forward. Yonhap News.
April 5/13: South Korea. An un-named military official tells the government’s Yonhap News Agency that after 2 years of discussions and negotiations with DAPA, EADS has changed its industrial offer. Instead of having the first 10 made in Europe, the next 24 made using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea, EADS has offered to build just 12 in Europe, with the other 48 Tranche 3 planes at KAI in South Korea.
The news report is imprecise, leaving the question of structural manufacturing vs. kit assembly unaddressed. It also fails to address how EADS can promote the idea of 20,000 South Korean aerospace jobs for a 5-year period, when the company also says that building the Typhoon for the much larger orders of the core country participants created just 10,000 jobs in Europe. On its face, the statement seems less than plausible, but it does point to the likelihood of significant structural manufacturing in Korea. Yonhap.
April 4/13: South Korea. The ROKAF has picked Taurus’ KEPD 350 long range cruise missile for their future fighter force. They’ll have to pay extra to integrate it with their F-16s and F-15Ks. The proposed F-15SE Silent Eagle is different enough that it will probably require added testing, so Eurofighter may garner a slight advantage from German & Spanish plans to add the KEPD 350 to Eurofighter by 2015. Read “Korea’s F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buys: Phases 2 & 3” for full coverage.
March 26/13: Tranche 3. The Tranche 3 Instrumented Production Aircraft 8 test plane has joined all major structural pieces, and moves on to the next production station on the final assembly line in Manching. Work is now focused on hydraulics, defensive aids, test flight instrumentation, and electrical systems with over 110 km of complex special cabling.
IPA8 will play an important role testing and integrating new features like the AESA radar, new weapons, etc. EADS Cassidian.
March 13/13: Denmark. The Danes pick up their fighter competition as promised, following their announced hiatus in April 2010. Invited bidders include the same set of Lockheed Martin (F-35A), Boeing (Super Hornet), and Saab (JAS-39E/F) – plus EADS (Eurofighter), who had withdrawn from the Danish competition in 2007. The goal of a 2014 F-16 replacement decision has been moved a bit farther back, and now involves a recommendation by the end of 2014, and a selection by June 2015.
The Flyvevabnet are reported to have 30 operational F-16s, with 15 more in reserve, out of an original order of 58. Past statements indicate that they’re looking to buy around 25 fighters as replacements, but there are reports of a range from 24-32, depending on price. Danish Forsvarsministeriet [in Danish] | Eurofighter GmbH | Saab | JSF Nieuws.
Feb 21/13: Saudi Arabia. BAE’s end of year investor presentation [PDF] discusses changes in Saudi Arabia, including a contract amendment that formally abandons Saudi plans for a final assembly line in-country. That insistence had been holding up deliveries, and the remaining 48 aircraft will begin arriving in 2013. Meanwhile, work to “expand the multi-role capabilities” of Saudi Typhoons continues, as do negotiations to continue expanding those capabilities toward Tranche 3 levels.
Pricing remains an issue several years after the contract, and the next stage of support contracts is also in long negotiations:
“Under the Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme (SBDCP), orders totalling £3.4bn were awarded for support through to 2016, including the provision of manpower, logistics and training to the RSAF…. The initial three-year Typhoon support contract finished at the end of June and two subsequent six-month extensions have been secured. Discussions continue with the customer on the next five years of support. Discussions on Typhoon price escalation with the Saudi Arabian government remain ongoing. Negotiations are also ongoing for the provision of maintenance and upgrade facilities in-Kingdom, and further capability enhancement of the aircraft.”
EUR 2 billion support deal; Oman buys 12; India loss.
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Dec 21/12: Oman. It isn’t Christmas over there, but the RAFO is getting a present anyway. The Sultanate signs a GBP 2.5 billion (about $4.057 billion) deal with Britain for 12 Eurofighters, and 8 Hawk LIFT advanced trainers. This makes them the Eurofighter Typhoon’s 3rd export customer, a status they share with their neighbor Saudi Arabia. The deal includes in-service support, and deliveries are expected to begin in 2017.
See “Oman’s Air Force Upgrades: From Jaguars to F-16s & Eurofighters” for full coverage.
Oman buys 12
Dec 6/12: Weapons. 1st firing of MBDA’s Meteor long range air-air missile from a Eurofighter Typhoon. It’s part of Britain’s Future Enhancements Flight Test Programme, and builds on BAE’s unpowered trials to verify safe separation. The flight trials were conducted with integrated support from QinetiQ and MBDA. BAE | Eurofighter.
Nov 29/12: UK Updates. BAE Systems has finished upgrading 43 RAF Eurofighters under the Retrofit 2 program, which began as its own effort but was subsumed into the wider Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) contract. Their Tranche 1 Block 5 standard installs the PIRATE forward looking infra-red (FLIR) system, improves air-to-air capability; and adds precision strike by using a combination of Paveway II family laser-guided bombs, and RAFAEL’s LITENING-III surveillance and laser designator pod. Eurofighter GmbH.
Nov 6/12: UAE. British Prime Minister David Cameron issues a joint communique with the UAE. The 2 countries will improve their defense ties, with specific commitments that include:
“Deepen our defence ties by; continuing the development of our joint plans for the security of the UAE and wider Gulf region; increasing our joint exercises and training; and by investing in the British military presence in the UAE.
Establish a defence industrial partnership that involves close collaboration around Typhoon and a number of new technologies.”
The Eurofighter is competing with France’s Rafale for a 60-plane buy, and these sorts of agreements are normal under the circumstances. It’s also normal for specific defense deals to depend on the customer’s final choice, though the joint communique includes economic relations beyond defense. UK PM | Reuters.
Nov 6/12: Flight costs. From Britain’s House of Commons:
Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average hourly cost was of flying the Typhoon fighter (a) with and (b) without fuel costs. 
Mr Dunne [holding answer 1 November 2012]: The standard marginal flying hour cost for a Typhoon is £3,875, including the cost of fuel. Excluding fuel costs the figure reduces to approximately £2,670.”
Even GBP 3,875 (about $6,200) is considerably cheaper than published American fighter costs per flight hour. The comparable F-15 Eagle family is generally quoted as being in the $17,000 – $19,500 range. The difference has less to do with the respective machines, and more to do with differing approaches to calculating those costs, especially in one’s choice of what to include. A standard calculation method would be informative, but it doesn’t exist.
Oct 16/12: Typhoon HMSS. Eurofighter GmbH touts the new “Head Equipment Assembly (HEA), developed by BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems, [which] comprises the aircrew helmet and all the sub-system elements needed to display a real world overlaid picture on the helmet visor.” The accompanying video has a Typhoon pilot explaining why this is so powerful, and expressing his belief that it’s impossible to beat an enemy if they have a system like this and you don’t. “Once you’ve had this helmet on, you don’t ever want to be without it.”
All well and good, but American fighters have had these capabilities for almost a decade now. A fact that they have used to their advantage in international competitions against the Typhoon, and against other fighters like the French Rafale that lack an accompanying HMD.
Why HMDs matter
July 2012: Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Defense releases its “Defense of Japan 2012” White Paper. Among other things, it explains exactly why the F-35 won. All 3 contenders fulfilled all mandatory requirements, but the F-35 was rated as the overall winner based on the 2nd stage evaluation of capability, industrial participation, cost, and support.
Part of the problem is that Japan simply accepted Lockheed Martin’s paper performance and cost promises at face value, in the absence of data. Even then, the Typhoon was seen as the most fuel-efficient plane, and its bid had the best industrial benefits for Japan. On the other hand, EADS and BAE had trouble meeting Japan’s purchase cost targets while giving Japanese firms all of that work, and picking it would have meant deviating from Japan’s strongly American industrial links and equipment infrastructure. The Eurofighter Typhoon also had a compatibility problem with the JASDF’s KC-767 aerial tankers, who don’t carry hose-and-drogue refueling pods. KC-767 retrofits would have been required. Read “Japan’s Next Fighters, From F-X Competition to F-35 Buys” for full coverage.
July 30/12: Eurofighter vs. F-22. Combat Aircraft leaks some results from the 2012 Red Flag exercises. WIRED Danger Room:
“In mid-June…  Typhoons arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for an American-led Red Flag exercise involving more than 100 aircraft from Germany, the U.S. Air Force and Army, NATO, Japan, Australia and Poland. Eight times during the two-week war game, individual German Typhoons flew against single F-22s… The results were a surprise to the Germans and presumably the Americans, too. “We were evenly matched,” Maj. Marc Gruene told Combat Aircraft’s Jamie Hunter. The key, Gruene said, is to get as close as possible to the F-22 … and stay there. “As soon as you get to the [close-in] merge … the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22,” Gruene said.”
July 30/12: AESA. NETMA(NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency) has reportedly issued an RFP to Eurofighter GmbH for the development of an E-Scan Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar. Eurofighter CEO, Enzo Casolini says the 2015 target remains, per announcements in June 2011:
“The timescale is to answer the RFP by October this year and to have an agreement with the nations by the end of the year. The target is to have a contract by the middle of next year and to have an E-Scan entering into service by 2015.”
See: Arabian Aerospace.
July 11/12: Weapons. BAE describes cockpit assessment trials for the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile. They took pilots from “each of the Eurofighter nations,” and put them through a range of scenarios in a modified simulator. That led to a series of recommendations for the final cockpit design.
On the one hand, getting the user interface really right pays big dividends in combat. On the other hand, the fact they’re doing these exercises a good indication of how early they are in the process. It also points to how much more is involved in this sort of thing, beyond just hanging a new missile on a pylon. BAE Systems.
July 10/12: Gulf opportunities. Reports from Farnborough shed some light on potential Eurofighter Typhoon sales to Oman, Qatar, and the UAE.
Dassault has been sounding quite confident about the Rafale’s ultimate prospects in the UAE, but BAE Systems’ business development director Alan Garwood told Reuters that he believed the UAE’s interest is “real and genuine,” adding that they “could tell by the questions they were asking us that they were serious.” BAE is still working with the British government to put together a package for 60 planes. With the loss in India, and the near-certain demise of Tranche 3B, the UAE represents the fighter’s largest near-term opportunity. Oman is a higher-odds opportunity, and Garwood said that:
“We’ll start formal negotiations [for 12 jets] with Oman towards the end of August  I would imagine. The two governments have targeted it for completion this year and we want it done this year as well… I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do that.”
With respect to Qatar, he would say only that: “We are talking to the Qataris quite a bit.” That’s normal in a competition like this, which is reported to include Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed’s F-35A Lightning II, and Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Reuters | WSJ’s The Source blog.
July 9/12: Upgrades at last? At the opening of the Farnborough defense exhibition, British Prime Minister David Cameron discusses the Eurofighter’s future:
“Typhoon’s growth potential is huge and the four partner nations, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK have agreed the next steps required to further exploit this. The integration of the METEOR missile, an Electronically Scanned Radar, enhancements of the Defensive Aids System, further development of the air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities and integration of new weapons.”
With Tranche 3B fading away, and India out as a big export win, upgrades like these are the only way to keep part of the manufacturing base going for much longer, and are also its best hope for landing significant export orders. The question is when some of these upgrade “agreements” will become signed contracts with actual dollars behind them. Read “Eurofighter’s Upgrades: Enough? In Time?” for more.
March 30/12: “Contract 1″. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH signs a major 5-year contract with NATO’s Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA), to support the fleet of Typhoon jets across the 4 Eurofighter core nations: Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The overall contract total is not disclosed, but is estimated to be around EUR 2 billion (currently $2.66 billion).
BAE estimates its share of the total at GBP 446 million (about EUR 533 million). Finmeccanica estimates its share of the total at “more than EUR 500 million.” EADS declined to give figures.
“Contract 1″ replaces previous Integrated Logistics Support (PC1-11) contracts and a number of sustainment contracts, covering items like day-to-day support, studies, and customer queries and investigations. It also includes continued development, testing, and upgrade work on the fighters’ systems. Replaced contracts will morph into Contract 1 over a period of time, but they will not include any of the major support contracts announced by various member countries in 2009. Eurofighter GmbH | BAE | Finmeccanica | Defense News.
“Contract 1″ for support
March 30/12: #321. A Finmeccanica release notes that so far, the consortium has delivered 321 Eurofighter Typhoons to customer nations.
March 22/12: AESA – just a sim. EADS Cassidian touts the benefits of an “E-Scan” AESA radar for the Eurofighter, and touts its operation of the largest assembly line in Europe for the individual transmit/ receive modules that make up those radars.
The German BWB’s 2-year study, using IABG GmbH’s MILSIM (man-in-the-loop simulator), is nice enough. What it isn’t, is a development and production contract. American F-15 Strike Eagles, F-16s, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets are offered with AESA radars right now. France’s Dassault just received the 1st RBE2-AA AESA radar for its Rafale production line. Saab is well underway developing its own ES-05 Raven AESA radar for the JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, which will join the Eurofighter’s notional AESA design in using a pivoting plate approach. They’re doing so in conjunction with Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo, the current leader of the Euroradar consortium. Unless the Eurofighter consortium and its governments get moving soon, their fighter will begin to find itself at a severe disadvantage in international competitions.
Jan 31/12: India loss. Dassault’s Rafale is picked as the “L-1″ lowest bidder for India’s 126-aircraft M-MRCA deal, even after the complex life-cycle cost and industrial calculations are thrown in. Some reports place its cost as $5 million lower per plane. Next steps include the negotiation of a contract, in parallel with parliamentary approval and budgeting.
Until a contract is actually signed, however, India’s procurement history reminds us that even a “close” deal is just 1 step above a vague intention. The contract may take a while. Even the French government sees a deal as only an 80% probability within 6-9 months. The budgeting is likely to be even trickier. The IAF’s exclusion of cost considerations in picking its finalists means that the only question now is: how far over the stated budget will a full Rafale buy go? Some reports place the deal’s cost at around $15 billion – an increase of up to 50% from previous estimates. If economic downturns or squeezed defense budgets make those outlays a big enough issue, early enough in the process, it could have the effect of re-opening the competition. British PM David Cameron has expressed an intent to change India’s mind, and both Saab and Boeing are still positioned within India, in order to be ready for a renewed opportunity.
Eurofighter’s problem is that it’s hard to see how it might succeed in a competition that was re-opened for financial reasons. Dassault | President Sarkozy [in French] | Economic Times of India, see also their timeline | Indian Express | Rediff (thanks for using our descriptions, sans attribution) | Times of India || Aviation Week | BBC | UK’s The Guardian | Reuters report and expert roundup.
HMD at last; Tranche 3 sub-system contracts; German cuts to 3B plans; Competitions in Bulgaria, India, Japan (loss), South Korea, UAE; Opportunities in Indonesia & Turkey?; AESA by 2015?; Paveway IV and EGBU-16 bomb tests; PILUM glide bomb; Naval Eurofighter; Negative British NAO report; 100,000 flying hours.
Eurofighter over Dubai
(click to view full)
Dec 20/11: Japan loss. Japan’s Ministry of Defense announces that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II has won the F-X competitive bid process for 42 planes, beating the Eurofighter and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet International. As F-4 replacements, the F-35As will have an air defense role, but Japan does have a large cadre of dedicated F-15Js to perform that mission. Conclusion? Their undeclared role is as strike fighters.
Note that there’s still an F-XX program in the future, aimed at replacing Japan’s F-15Js. Numbers as high as 100+ planes have been floated, but that will depend on both economic straits, and local geopolitical threats. Read “Japan’s Next Fighters, From F-X Competition to F-35 Buys” for full coverage.
Nov 16/11: UAE. The UAE is either engaged in the mother of all hardball negotiations, or the potential Rafale sale is crashing. Critical comments at the highest levels are accompanying the invite to Eurofighter, strengthening the belief that the Typhoon is more than just a stalking horse to lower the French bid.
The question is, how big is the opportunity? Reports have surfaced that the UAE may be about to cut its planned new jet order, regardless of its choice, and buy more of its unique F-16E/F Block 60s. Read “Derailed Denouement in Dubai: What’s Up With the UAE’s Fighter Deal?” for a snapshot.
Nov 13/11: UAE. Flight International reports that the UAE must have liked their October briefings re: Eurofighter’s capabilities, because they’ve asked Eurofighter GmbH for an RFP bid to replace their current fleet of Mirage 2000-9s. The UAE has been in negotiations to buy Rafale planes for several years now, but hasn’t been able to clinch a deal.
It’s hard to tell if the UAE is just looking to add pressure and get a better price from Dassault, or if their interest is serious. One sign that they might be serious is the fact that they’ve also received classified technical briefings regarding the F-15E Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet, but haven’t asked for RFP bids from the Americans. Flight International believes that this may be a prelude to consideration of the stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle or F/A-18 Super Hornet International for the UAE’s planned 2018-2025 fighter modernization. The obvious 3rd contender there is Lockheed Martin’s F-35.
Nov 12/11: Eurofighter GmbH touts their Dubai flying display, complete with a graphic showing their impressive flight plan.
They also tout a range of technologies that they hadn’t advertised much before, including thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, an AESA radar, and MBDA’s Marte anti-ship missile. The release appears to blur the line between concepts/plans, and field-ready equipment.
Oct 21/11: Germany & Tranche 3B. Germany announces further defense cuts, which include a proviso that their Eurofighter orders will end at Tranche 3A, instead of adding another 37 planes in a Tranche 3B.
With Britain also saying that Tranche 3Ais the end, and the governments of Spain and Italy under severe financial strain, it appears less and less likely that there will be a Tranche 3B. The question is how to escape termination costs. Negotiations can be expected, but one option is to count future exports as re-sales of scheduled orders from existing partner countries. Aviation Week.
Aug 18/11: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo contracts with BAE Systems Manufacturing at Hillend in Fife, in GBP 20+ million procurement and electronic manufacturing services contract related to Tranche 3A’s Captor radars. Work at the Hillend facility will run from 2011-2013.
BAE’s release adds that the facility has won over GBP 165 million in Captor and Typhoon DASS orders, over the last 12 years.
July 20/11: South Korea. As South Korea’s DAPA eases the criteria to try and foster more competition, DAPA’s Col. Wi Jong-seong says that “Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi expressed its intent to compete in the fighter jet procurement project early this year.” The report quotes him as saying that Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK-FA will be up against Boeing’s stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Assuming we don’t have an FX-II competition repeat, where all competitors but one drop out.
At this point, FX-III is being touted as a 60 jet buy of high-end fighters, with a budget of 8.29 trillion won ($7.86 billion). Eurofighter reportedly offered a better deal than the F-15K in F-X-2, but lost. The firm recently proposed to phase in Korean assembly for Phase III, with the 1st 10 made in Europe, the next 24 using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea. Korea Times.
June 27/11: Weapons. Diehl BGT and Israel’s RAFAEL unveil a new weapon for Eurofighter at the 2011 Paris Air Show. The PILUM long-range glide bomb concept has a range variously reported as 100-160 km/ 62 – 99.5 miles, but it’s a developmental weapon, so exact figures remain to be proven. PILUM uses RAFAEL Spice’s combination of GPS/INS and imaging infrared guidance, within Diehl’s <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HOPE/HOSB