The slow pace of negotiations with customer nations has become a "problem" for the planned Tranche 3 production phase of the Eurofighter programme, EADS Defence and Security head Stefan Zoller has warned.
Speaking in Newport in the UK on 13 January, Zoller confirmed that there are "ongoing discussions" with the four partner nations on how to organise and procure their final 236 Eurofighters under a 620-aircraft umbrella deal. He added that EADS is "concerned" that the negotiations would not conclude soon enough, presenting the risk of "an interruption to the production line", which would be "expensive".
Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK are negotiating with the Eurofighter industrial consortium via the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency, and an agreement covering their planned acquisition of a combined 236 Tranche 3 aircraft is required in the first quarter of 2009 if the schedule is to avoid disruption.
Deliveries of the programme's first Tranche 2 aircraft for the core nations began last October, with Saudi Arabia also to receive 72 aircraft from late this year under an export agreement brokered via the UK government.
Protracted negotiations between the programme partners caused a production gap between Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 production of the Eurofighter earlier this decade, with the UK at that time opting to accelerate the introduction of air-to-ground weapons by the type.
Eurofighter chief executive Aloysius Rauen last September revealed options including a split-buy proposal that would enable nations to spread their payments for Tranche 3 production, or seek permission to market some of their aircraft for export.
For more Eurofighter news and images, see Flight's aircraft profile