Country has ordered 24 Eurofighters in $1.75bn contract that includes 200% offsets

Austria has selected the Eurofighter Typhoon to meet its air-defence fighter requirement and, although the aircraft has yet to enter service with the four partner nations, Austrian pilots could be flying the aircraft as early as next year.

Austria will buy 24 Typhoons in a deal worth €1.79 billion ($1.75 billion). A contract is expected to be finalised by year-end, as are offset deals worth 200% of purchase price. The Austrian air force also considered the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Saab/BAE Systems Gripen.

Delivery timetables are to be finalised and Austria is seeking a tie-up with one of the four Eurofighter partner air forces - Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - to begin gaining experience with the type. Timescales are critical, as Austria's Saab J35 Drakens must be retired by 2005. They are being operated at reduced intensity to ensure that at least some of the fleet remains airworthy until the out-of-service date.

Sources in Vienna suggest the "reference air force" - probably Germany's, as it has close ties with its Austrian equivalent - could also provide air defence for Austria, or at least supply up to six aircraft for Austrian pilots to fly the mission.

Eurofighter partner company EADS says Austria's initial aircraft will be delivered to the air-defence dedicated initial operational capability and will later be upgraded to the multirole full operational capability. Development of Eurofighter beyond the tranche 1 specification for the partner air forces is seen as less of an issue for Austria, which has a primary requirement for an air-defence aircraft.

Industry sources suggest that despite Austria's small aerospace and defence sectors, it has been offered more than €1 billion in direct work, possibly including Austrian software houses developing terrain databases for Eurofighter simulators.

Indirect offset offers include biotechnology, information technology, military vehicles, satellites, telecommunications and transport. The Eurofighter proposal identifies 85 potential projects involving 150 companies and institutions.

The indirect offset will include more work for EADS shareholder DaimlerChrysler's Austrian automotive factories. The offset also includes help for Austrian small and medium enterprises through the creation of a business development fund in co-operation with a local equity company.

Source: Flight International