Tim Ripley

In the wake of its first export success in Greece, the Eurofighter consortium is gearing up its campaign to capture around half of the $70 billion global fighter market over the next 30 years. With its new slogan "Nothing stands in its way", the consortium¹s London-based export organisation Eurofighter International (EFI) has Korea and the Netherlands firmly in its sights. The first production Eurofighter is due to fly next summer and export versions will be available from 2004.EFI president Cesari Gianni, says that a proposal for 40 multi-role Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft was submitted to the South Korean government at the end of June. In spite of expected strong US opposition, Gianni says the Typhoon has good prospects. "The Pacific Rim is offering more and more opportunities for European aerospace companies," he says. Other EFI executives believe the recent warming of relations between North and South Korea could boost the prospects of Eurofighter because it would reduce Seoul¹s military dependence on the United States and open opportunities for buying more European military equipment. A decision is expected from Korea in 2002. EFI had high hopes to win Norway¹s fighter contest but the Scandinavian country has recently scaled back its defence procurement and deferred its purchase. Gianni says Norway may re-open the contest in the future. "We will continue for the longer term - we didn¹t win and we didn¹t loose".

In the European market, EFI is finding itself up against the American Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The first clash in what promises to be an epic fighter battle_ is likely to be in the Netherlands, which EFI executives consider as a "key break through" target. Sales of 250 aircraft worth at least $12.5 billion are _at stake.

While the Netherlands is likely to buy fewer than 100 new airframes to replace its existing Lockheed Marftin F-16 fleet, the decision will indicate if existing users of the best-selling American fighter are going to stick with it or buy European aircraft when they have to replace their fighter fleets over the next decade.

American procurement chiefs are currently proposing that European NATO nations make a decision by spring next year on whether to join the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), such a decision effectively locking them into buying the American product. A Dutch decision will be pivotal in determining if Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Portugal will also replace their F-16s with JSF from 2008 onwards. "The Netherlands is seriously reviewing its position on JSF and Eurofighter is considered an increasingly attractive alternative," says Gianni. "We are offering the Netherlands better [industrial] opportunities than the EMD phase of JSF in the interests of keeping their options open until the situation is more mature for a decision."

The four-nation Eurofighter consortium is putting together a package of industrial participation in the programme to build the European combat aircraft. This is likely to include the production of components and final assembly of Eurofighter airframes, as well as participation in the NATO Eurofighter management agency.

Source: Flight Daily News