BAE, not Eurofighter, promotes Typhoon at Dubai

With Eurofighter GmbH’s attentions firmly focused on a number of vital export campaigns, the four-nation organisation responsible for the Eurofighter Typhoon programme is not exhibiting at Dubai.

Instead, Typhoon is being presented by one of the Eurofighter partner companies, BAE Systems, which is showing off the Typhoon’s cockpit simulator at the show. Test pilots are on hand to demonstrate and explain the aircraft’s intuitive Man-Machine Interface, which many believe is the Typhoon’s key advantage over many of its competitors.


Eurofighter GmbH’s absence looks surprising, especially after Saudi Arabia finally signed a $8.86 billion contract for the purchase of 72 Eurofighter Typhoons on September 11. But this deal was a direct government-to-government arrangement between the UK and Saudi Arabia, and not between the manufacturer and the customer.

The Typhoon procurement was originally outlined in the December 2005 al-Salam agreement between the two governments.

This ‘Understanding Document’ confirmed Saudi Arabia’s intention to procure Typhoon aircraft to replace some RSAF Tornados and other frontline aircraft. No details were released at the time, though press reports suggested the deal would be 72 Typhoons, and that al-Salam would follow the long-running al-Yamamah programme. This was signed in 1984 and covered the supply of Hawks and Tornados, generating more than £43bn of revenue for BAE Systems.

The initial contract will be followed by further deals covering the supply of weapons, support, training and engineering services, and some have estimated that these will eventually total $40bn over the lifetime of the aircraft.

The first 24 Saudi Typhoons will be built by BAE Systems at Warton, north-west England, with the remaining 48 aircraft probably being assembled locally in Saudi Arabia, though details remain to be finalised. It was initially thought that the Saudi aircraft would take 12 RAF line positions, not 24 as widely reported, at the beginning of Tranche 2, and another 12 extra line positions will be added later in Tranche 2.

This initial batch of 24 Saudi aircraft will include six two-seaters. It was widely expected that the first 12 Saudi aircraft would be interspersed with RAF aircraft on the Warton line, but recent reports suggest that these Saudi aircraft will now be delivered as a ‘block’, leading to a delay in RAF deliveries, though extra RAF aircraft will be added at the end of Tranche 2, so there will be no change to RAF numbers. As a result, the RAF’s third frontline Typhoon unit, No.6 Squadron, is not expected to stand up until 2010.

The first 22 Saudi Typhoon pilots and an initial cadre of engineers will be trained alongside their Royal Air Force counterparts at RAF Coningsby on the Typhoon Operational Conversion Unit, No.29 (Reserve) Squadron. The remaining 48 aircraft (including eight two-seaters) will come from Tranche 3, or will be locally assembled at a “new facility in Saudi Arabia”.

These 72 Typhoons will replace the RSAF’s Tornado ADV fighters, and some Northrop F-5s and Boeing F-15Cs, and there may even be an eventual requirement for up to 200 aircraft.

BAE is a long-standing supplier of defence equipment to Saudi Arabia, starting with Hawker Hunters and then BAC Strikemasters and Lightnings, and later BAE Hawks and Panavia Tornados. The company has a stated strategy of continuing “to develop Saudi Arabia as a key home market.” The Typhoon sale also reflects increasing co-operation between the UK and Saudi Ministries of Defence, which has included two recent bilateral exercises involving the RAF and RSAF Tornado forces.

With the Saudi contract signed, a number of other export campaigns are being actively pursued. In the period immediately before the Dubai show, Eurofighter GmbH completed a pre-bid RFP clarification process in India. “This was the most professionally put together and most comprehensive RFP I’d ever seen, but we are happy with the detail, and happy that we understand what they want, and we are putting together a compliant bid,”according to one senior Eurofighter source.

“Operationally, Typhoon is exactly what the Indian Air Force needs, and I am confident that it will meet their technology transfer and industrial aspirations. The Indians themselves are stressing costs of ownership, so I think that our combination of capability and low lifecycle costs over 40 years will be compelling.”

Eurofighter GmbH is also actively participating in the JASDF’s F-X F-4 replacement programme in Japan, where an RFP is said to be imminent.

Typhoon was actually selected as Greece’s new generation fighter in March 2000, and the Greek Government announced its commitment to an order for 60 Typhoons later that year. Contract signature was then delayed due to the cost of the 2004 Olympic Games, however, and the fighter competition was re-opened by a new incoming Government. Eurofighter GmbH has continued to try to find alternative funding arrangements and to resolve budget issues, and Greece has been offered substantial industrial participation in the Eurofighter progamme.

Switzerland is also viewed as an interesting prospect for the Typhoon, especially after Austria’s selection of the type.
A number of European JSF partner nations are also being courted as potential Typhoon customers. Though Norway is a ‘Level Two’ JSF partner, the country has been a member of the Eurofighter industrial partnership since January 2003, when it made an initial €10.8m investment to participate in high technology development work, later increasing its industrial participation to €23m in June 2005.

A number of other nations have expressed serious reservations about industrial participation in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter programme, or about timescales, and are now viewed as Typhoon prospects. These nations include Denmark, the Netherlands and Turkey.

There have even been suggestions that there may still be the possibility of ‘follow-on’ requirements in Singapore and South Korea, where the Typhoon lost out to the Boeing F-15 Eagle in earlier fighter competitions.

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Source: Flight Daily News