Eurofighter partners sign €9 billion Tranche 3A deal

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Partner nations Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have signed a €9 billion ($12.7 billion) contract for their first Tranche 3 Eurofighter combat aircraft, ending months of uncertainty over the programme's future prospects.

Conducted in Manching near Munich, Germany, the signing event covered the so-called Tranche 3A production of a combined 112 aircraft for the partner nations. The order split is 40 aircraft for the UK, 31 for Germany, 21 for Italy and 20 for Spain, with the deal also including the delivery of 241 Eurojet EJ200 turbofan engines.

Today's signature clears the way for the four partner nations to negotiate the configuration of their new aircraft with the Eurofighter industrial consortium via the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency.

The UK Ministry of Defence says its new commitment is worth around £3 billion ($4.97 billion), making each of its aircraft's unit cost about £75 million. Deliveries to the Royal Air Force will start in 2013, with the aircraft expected to feature "new radar and new weapons". They are likely to "accommodate future installation of additional fuel tanks mounted on the fuselage to greatly increase range and endurance".

BAE Systems says the new aircraft "will be of Tranche 2 standard provisioned with additional capability to deal with projected high-technology future capability enhancements."

 
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The UK wants its future Eurofighters to have new radar, weapons and extended-range capability

The air force chiefs of Germany and the UK earlier this month confirmed their shared interest in equipping Tranche 3 aircraft with an active electronically scanned array radar.

With the Eurofighter nations' first two production contracts having totalled 384 aircraft, the Tranche 3A deal should move them to within 124 of honouring their shared commitment to purchase a combined 620 over the programme's life.

A total of 178 Eurofighters had been delivered by 30 June, including 24 Tranche 2 examples.

BAE says its stake in the Tranche 3A deal will be valued at around £2 billion, with Italy's Finmeccanica expecting to receive business worth over €2.8 billion. EADS has yet to disclose the expected volume of its involvement.

Rolls-Royce, which holds a 37% stake in the Eurojet consortium, says its Tranche 3A production activities will be worth over £300 million.