This could be a pivotal year for the four-nation Eurofighter programme, as partner companies Airbus Defence & Space, Alenia Aermacchi and BAE Systems push to secure fresh export deals on the back of a range of capability enhancements now starting to approach operational readiness.

With more than two years having passed since the signature of a last international order for the Typhoon – a UK-brokered deal to supply 12 examples to Oman – and its domestic backlog decreasing, pressure is mounting on the Eurofighter consortium to add to its sales tally.

Oman Typhoon - BAE Systems

BAE Systems

This need has been clear to Eurofighter chief executive Alberto Gutierrez since he took the helm of the company in June 2013, and outlined his pursuit of “competitiveness, campaigns and capabilities” as priorities.

“We will intensify our export campaigns on the global markets with clear strategic goals: sign new contracts and win new customers,” Gutierrez says in a letter recently distributed with Eurofighter’s 2015 calendar. “While the international competition is getting tougher every year, we need to focus our sales activities primarily on markets with a significant growth potential. The foremost of these are the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.”

With Oman on contract and Saudi Arabia already operating 42 of the 72 Typhoons being acquired via its Project Salam deal with the UK, a potential follow-on sale to Riyadh and opportunities in Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar are a focus of attention. The United Arab Emirates appeared to be leaning towards the type ahead of the Dubai air show in November 2013, but instead opted to buy another batch of Lockheed Martin F-16E/Fs – and end Typhoon discussions with the UK.

In Asia, Malaysia is nearing a decision in its multirole combat aircraft competition, with the Eurofighter partners facing rival bids involving the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Saab Gripen. The consortium is also promoting the Typhoon to meet the potential combat requirements of Indonesia.

“We will also need to ensure that production continuity can be guaranteed and that we will deliver economic returns, jobs and technologies to the customer nations,” Gutierrez continues. Expected programme highlights in 2015 should include approval “to launch the Phase 3 Enhancement [P3E] programme, as well as the signature for the production contract of the new [Euroradar consortium] E-Scan radar”, he adds.

Typhoon Brimstone 2 - BAE Systems

BAE Systems

The full integration of weapons like MBDA’s Brimstone air-to-surface missile and (above) stand-off-range Storm Shadow, plus the availability of the active electronically scanned array radar from late this decade could be the capabilities that sway new customers, Eurofighter hopes. Alenia Aermacchi in November 2014 performed the first test release of the roughly 1,300kg (2,870lb) Storm Shadow from the type, which will be capable of carrying two of the cruise missiles via the P2E enhancements process.

In the meantime, the ground-attack weapons will be critical additions for the UK Royal Air Force as it moves towards the scheduled retirement of its remaining Panavia Tornado GR4s by 2019. Typhoons upgraded to the P1Eb standard are now capable of using Raytheon Systems’ Paveway IV precision-guided bomb – a capability that will be tested during a Red Flag-series exercise from Nellis AFB, Nevada in the coming weeks. The first RAF Typhoons arrived at the site earlier this month.

For the first time at a Red Flag event, the RAF’s Typhoon force – led by personnel from its Lossiemouth-based 1 Sqn – will conduct “swing-role” operations, involving the simultaneous provision of air-to-air and air-to-surface strike capabilities. Preparatory work performed by the UK late last year included 1 Sqn’s participation in a “Tartan Flag” exercise, which pitted its pilots against simulated threat aircraft. The complex conditions created at the US Air Force-run air warfare exercise – which will run for three weeks from 26 January – will provide the sternest test yet for the P1Eb standard, and determine whether it is ready for potential combat deployment.

A total of 20 226kg-class Paveway IVs are scheduled to be released during the exercise, according to the RAF.

Plans established under the UK’s Interim Force 2015 concept call for the RAF to have a total of 35 P1Eb-standard Typhoons available by 1 April.

Eurofighter says its partner companies have so far delivered a combined 420 of the aircraft to Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, plus export operators Austria and Saudi Arabia. Flightglobal’s MiliCAS database records 377 of these as being in current active service.

Source: Flight International