Eurofighter has confirmed it has suspended talks with Norway and Denmark on offering the Typhoon to replace their F-16s, but has stopped short of commenting on press reports that it thinks the bidding process is slanted towards the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Bloomberg quotes from a letter sent by Eurofighter shareholder EADS to the Norwegian finance ministry saying that the consortium "continues to feel ill at ease with the current process".
Norway is due to make a fighter decision in 2008, Denmark by 2009 and both are also looking at the Saab Gripen. But the F-35 has always been the one to beat, given both countries' long association with Lockheed and the F-16. In fact, Lockheed is trying to pull together a multi-year, multi-country F-35 procurement similar to the 1975 "sale of the century" in which Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway purchased 348 F-16s.
The Typhoon also faces competition on the home front, with Eurofighter confirming reports that partner nations Italy and the UK are looking at shelving further orders. It is no coincidence that both countries are also planning to buy the F-35. Whether Eurofighter's withdrawal form Denmark and Norway is a ploy wll only become clear during 2008 - and year in which the F-35 programme has to deliver some significant results or questions will be asked.