In its interim results announcement made on 1 August, BAE Systems confirmed that it will be delivering a further six Eurofighter Typhoons to Saudi Arabia this year, pushing the nation’s fleet of the type to 34 aircraft, against a current order for 72.
Just before the Paris air show, I got the chance to have a quick tour of the Typhoon final assembly line at BAE’s Warton site in Lancashire, which was probably the busiest I’ve ever seen it. I was told that the expectation was for 24 aircraft to be completed in 2013, with a 50:50 split between jets bound for the UK and Saudi Arabia. That rate should be sustained for the next three or four years.
I also saw aircraft BS116 on the line, which is the Royal Air Force’s first Typhoon to be finished in the Tranche 3 production standard. The main changes from Tranche 2 are the ability to accept a future active electronically scanned array radar, and also to carry conformal fuel tanks (CFT). Long-running talks about adding some Tranche 3 capabilities to the last 24 of Saudi Arabia’s aircraft should conclude later this year, BAE believes, with the company also hopeful of selling it a second batch.
Externally, a Tranche 3 Eurofighter looks pretty much the same as any other Eurofighter, so here’s a handy spotter’s guide on how to identify one. Check out the upper fuselage just in front of the tail, and you’ll see two small bumps: they hide the piping for where a future CFT would be attached. There are also a couple of small holes under the wing to allow fuel dumping, but you probably won’t be able to see unless you just got ran over by the jet.
As shown in the company-provided video above, BAE just moved BS116 out of its 302 Hangar to the paint shop at Warton, with the fighter due to fly for the first time in September or October and Tranche 3 deliveries expected to start “later this year”.