Austria nears acceptance of first upgraded Typhoon

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Austria is set to reintroduce its first of 15 Eurofighter Typhoons to have received an upgrade that will enhance the type's communications equipment, add identification friend-or-foe systems and address obsolescence issues.

"The first upgraded aircraft is expected to be handed over by the Eurofighter consortium in the coming days, while the complete fleet is planned to be reworked by the end of 2012," said Brig Gen Rupert Stadlhofer, commander of air surveillance command.

Delivered between 2007 and 2009 and operated from Zeltweg air base, Austria's Tranche 1-standard Typhoons have so far logged a combined 3,200 flying hours.

 

© Geoffrey Lee/Eurofighter

Budget constraints mean the fleet is restricted to 1,200-1,300h annually, although Stadlhofer said this is to rise to 1,500h by 2015. Each of Austria's 14 Typhoon pilots flies an average of 70-80h per year, while another two are being trained.

Despite the effects of the modernisation programme, the air force makes five Typhoons available each day to meet training requirements as well as to provide quick-reaction alert cover. Aircraft typically take off within 7min of an alarm being raised, with the nation's airspace having been violated 170 times last year.

Austria's defence ministry has signed a new in-service support deal with Eurofighter, which includes a 30% cost reduction by 2016. It has an option to extend the contract by a further two years.

Separately, Stadlhofer said Austria will send its first students to Lecce air base in Italy late this year to undergo lead-in fighter training on the Alenia Aermacchi MB-339CD. Its personnel previously received instruction via the NATO Flying Training in Canada scheme.