Package includes redesigned software to enable integration of new weapons
Eurofighter has been handed the long-awaited contract to develop the ground-attack capabilities demanded by customer nations for their Tranche 2 aircraft, after the German parliament finally gave its blessing to the €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) deal last week.
The UK Royal Air Force, meanwhile, says its Typhoons will take on their first operational role by mid-year, providing quick reaction alert cover and progressively replacing Panavia Tornado F3s.
The phase one package of enhancements for Tranche 2 aircraft of the four Eurofighter nations incorporates a redesigned software architecture to enable integration of new weapons, including the Raytheon Systems Paveway IV precision-guided bomb for the UK, and the Raytheon EGBU-16 laser-guided bomb (LGB) for other nations, plus the BGT IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile.
Eurofighter programme director Brian Phillipson says the deal - which had been due to be signed late last year - provides a "consistent product development strategy".
The customer nations are expected to decide within the next 12 months on the integration of MBDA's Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile during the latter stage of Tranche 2 production, Phillipson adds. Deliveries under the Tranche 2 production order are expected to begin in mid-2008, with the first development aircraft to fly later this year.
Eurofighter plans to start work on proposals for Phase 2 enhancements in the second half of 2007, focusing on integration of the MBDA Storm Shadow and Taurus Systems KEPD 350 stand-off weapons.
A Tranche 3 production contract should be signed in early 2009 to ensure deliveries from 2012, says Phillipson.
Spain last week received the first Tranche 1 Block 5 Eurofighter, the final build standard of the first production contract. Late-build Tranche 1 aircraft are also equipped for air-to-ground operations using Paveway II and GBU-10/16 LGBs, and the RAF will also receive Tranche 1 Eurofighters equipped with laser designator pods.
The UK's second operational Typhoon unit, 11 Sqn, reformed at Coningsby, Lincolnshire on 29 March.
RAF Typhoons will take on their first operational role by mid-year