Each time a quick reaction alert sortie is launched from any of the nations operating the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, it is dependent on the availability of the type’s twin Eurojet EJ200 turbofan engines.

Flown by partner nations Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, plus export users Austria and Saudi Arabia – and also to be delivered to Oman from later this decade – the Eurofighter provides the backbone for their air defence capabilities. This currently is also the case over the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where aircraft from the Italian air Force and UK Royal Air Force are involved in NATO’s provision of air policing cover from Šiauliai in Lithuania and Ämari in Estonia.

Speak to a Eurofighter pilot and it is unlikely that they will make any complaint about the availability of power from the type’s EJ200s, which each have a maximum output of 20,000lb (90kN) of thrust at full reheat. Combined with the aircraft’s fly-by-wire flight controls and aerodynamic design, these give it the high level of manoeuvrability expected of an air dominance platform ranked by many as second only behind the US Air Force’s stealthy Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.


The UK's Royal Air Force is one of four partner nations flying the EJ200-powered Eurofighter Typhoon


With approaching 400 Eurofighters now in operational service and around 1,100 engines delivered since 2003, the Eurojet consortium earlier this year received its latest in-service support deal for core operating nations Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Signed in February by the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA), the three-year deal is the sixth such operational-phase contract. Notably, the latest agreement included a lower support price per flying hour, says Eurojet – a consortium formed by Rolls-Royce, MTU Aero Engines, ITP and Avio Aero.

“We met all the requirements of the four nations – with a significant amount of challenges,” says Colin England, Eurojet’s vice-president, sales. The consortium refers to the Eurofighter programme as now being in a new phase, with “stable, but demanding operations”, and says the deal “builds a base for direct national availability service contracts of the partner companies with their respective nation”.

According to NETMA general manager Air Vice Marshal Graham Farnell, the award incorporates “savings that will underpin confidence in our ambition to continuously improve the future support concept of this engine”. Reducing the in-service support cost of the Eurofighter has been a long-term objective of the partner nations, with such an achievement also seen as crucial in their pursuit of further export business with the type.

Aircraft deliveries are now under way from the programme’s Tranche 3A production phase – the last for Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Eurojet’s total production run is expected to be for around 1,500 EJ200s, and with current orders this is expected to see work continue until at least 2018.

One opportunity to extend its build programme could come through the Eurofighter consortium’s pursuit of several further sales opportunities for the Typhoon, including with potential operators Indonesia and Malaysia. Further business in the Middle East could also result from a number of potential campaigns, although earlier hopes of a deal with Qatar have gone, following Doha’s recent order for 24 Dassault Rafales.

Another key target for the Eurojet partners is to offer the EJ200 for integration with other combat aircraft now planned for manufacture in nations including India, South Korea and Turkey. This path would include the opportunity to cooperate with local industry on further development of the European turbofan, which so far has not required enhancement for the Eurofighter nations, despite previous research work into features including thrust-vectoring control.

“There is real growth [potential] in the EJ200, but the customers have never requested it,” England notes. “Outside of Europe, there is a requirement to go further.”

India’s indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme represents one promising opportunity.

“We are in defining discussions with the stakeholders, and are answering various questions,” says England, who adds: “We understand some of the growth requirements of India.” The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) – which is also responsible for the long-running development of India’s Tejas light combat aircraft – is spearheading the activity.


Eurofighter could offer the EJ200 for integration with combat aircraft other than the Typhoon

Geoffrey Lee/Eurofighter

Eurojet is anticipating the release of a request for proposals for the AMCA’s engine requirement. At the Aero India show in Bengaluru in February, the ADA indicated that the new model could make its first flight in around 2020. Other potential powerplant solutions for the expected 25t type include the Indian Gas Turbine Research Establishment’s Kaveri, which failed to meet the Indian air force’s performance requirements with the Tejas Mk I fighter. New Delhi is acquiring the GE Aviation F414 also used by the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for its Mk II examples.

“We are also engaged with South Korea on KFX,” says England. “They have already chosen that it will be a twin[-engined type], and are going forward on that basis.” A selection decision for the indigenous model’s engines could be made at the end of this year, Eurojet believes.

The KFX programme also involves potential future Typhoon customer Indonesia, which has a 20% stake in Seoul’s future fighter activity. Combined, the nations are expected to produce 200 aircraft as part of an activity worth an estimated $8.3 billion.

In January, Eurojet signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkish company Aselsan, “to explore potential opportunities for business collaboration on an engine control unit, health and usage monitoring system and software development projects relating to the EJ200 engine programme”. This is linked to Ankara’s TFX fighter programme, which is intended to deliver replacements for its current fleet of 245 Lockheed F-16C/Ds.

Turkey’s SSM procurement body had previously mandated the availability of an engine with a 25,000lb thrust rating, but now appears to be favouring an indigenous fighter with twin 20,000lb-class powerplants. Other designs being promoted for the opportunity include the F414 and the Snecma M88, which powers the Rafale.

Eurojet deputy technical director Wolfgang Sterr notes that such sea level thrust ratings are frequently referred to in the early stages of contests, before a customer’s true performance requirements are communicated. “The most important point of an aircraft is to have a specific speed and thrust at a specific height,” he notes.

“Turkey is very important to Eurojet, as are other campaigns. We’ve responded to their requirements and we are in further discussions around the technologies,” England says.

Highlighting the current focus on pursuing new platform applications for the EJ200, Eurojet officials were at Aero India, and also in attendance at the IDEF exhibition in Istanbul in early May. They will also be at the ADEX show in Seoul in October. By contrast, the Eurofighter and Eurojet consortia will not be participating in the Paris air show as exhibitors.

“The technologies in the EJ200 are at a very good, high level at this time,” England says, referring to the use of advanced blisks and full authority digital engine control software as supporting Eurojet’s ability to offer the product using an on-condition maintenance model, rather than requiring inspection and overhaul at precisely set intervals.

“We have a very stable product,” says Sterr of the in-service design. “It’s a mature product, but in each [Eurojet] partner company there are good ideas to take the engine forward.”

Source: Flight International