The first Tranche 3 production example of the Eurofighter Typhoon performed its debut flight on 2 December, from BAE Systems’ Warton assembly site in Lancashire, the UK.
Flown by BAE test pilot Nat Makepeace, single-seat BS116 is one of 40 Tranche 3 aircraft that will be produced for the UK Royal Air Force, equipped with a series of enhancements over previous examples. Germany, Italy and Spain will receive a combined further 72 Eurofighters in the new standard.
“At the nose, a new internal structure has been built, and work has been carried out on power, cooling and electronics so that a new E-scan [active electronically scanned array] radar could be accommodated,” says Mark Kane, BAE’s managing director, combat air. The Euroradar consortium and Selex ES are working on candidate systems, with BAE having already performed a trial installation with the UK’s Typhoon instrumented production aircraft 5. This is currently being prepared at Warton to make its first flight carrying the sensor, BAE says.
Another design change introduced for the Tranche 3 standard will give operators the option of installing conformal fuel tanks with their aircraft.
Early windtunnel work has been performed on the design change, which will be the subject of future flight-testing.
“Once fitted, these would give the aircraft greater range, and free up positions under the aircraft for larger or additional weapons,” Kane says. Partner company Alenia Aermacchi in late November conducted the first flight test of a Eurofighter carrying two MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missiles: a stand-off-range type which will be employed with the Typhoon for at least Italy and the UK.
BAE notes that the Tranche 3 enhancements will “future-proof the aircraft and make it more attractive to current and potential export customers”.
The Typhoon has already been introduced by international operators Austria and Saudi Arabia, ordered by Oman and is currently being offered to nations including Bahrain and Malaysia and the UAE.