Eurofighter enhancement package enters flight test

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Flight-test activities on a new package of modifications for the Eurofighter Typhoon have got under way in the UK, with the work to lead to new operational capabilities from next year.

To be performed on Tranche 2 production aircraft for partner nations Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, the phase 1 enhancement (P1E) programme will add new air-to-surface weapons functionality and an expanded communications fit.

BAE Systems began flying a modified instrumented production aircraft from its Warton final assembly site in Lancashire late last year in support of the P1E process.  The asset is being used to clear the use of GPS- and laser-guided weapons in combination with the Rafael Litening III targeting pod, already integrated with some of the UK’s Typhoons.

spanish tranche 2 eurofighter typhoon, eurofighter 
 © Eurofighter

"IPA6 commenced flight trials of a new software enhancement package in December,” says BAE, which adds: “the trials have been successful."

The same test aircraft will also be used to prove digital functionality for the Diehl BGT Defence IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile, used by Eurofighter operators Germany, Italy and launch export customer Austria. Other activities will include assessing improvements to the Typhoon's man-machine interface, and expanding the capabilities of its Multi-functional Information Distribution System datalink.

A first package of P1E enhancements will be released to operators next year, with the remaining modifications to be available during 2012. The process will also involve development aircraft based in Germany, Italy and Spain.

Meanwhile, EADS Defence & Security chief executive Stefan Zoller says a decision is expected "within weeks" on whether the four partner nations will install active electronically scanned array radars with their Tranche 3A production Eurofighters.

"There is a proposal on the table, and now it's the task of the nations to respond as quickly as possible," he says. "We have to differentiate at what point in time the nations need that radar to equip their own fleets, and how fast we have to go to stay in [export] competitions. It's a case of emergency."

Contract approval was given late last year to produce a combined 112 aircraft under Tranche 3A, but the nations have yet to agree on a final configuration for the type.

Zoller also expects the partners to later proceed with the planned Tranche 3B production of the Eurofighter, but concedes: "maybe they will have different answers on the numbers of aircraft they need in their fleets."

EADS has a 46% stake in the combat aircraft programme, which also involves Alenia Aeronautica (21%) and BAE Systems (33%).