Stewart Penney/MUNICH

Eurofighter says it might not meet the contractually mandated 31 August flight date for the first instrumented production aircraft (IPA). The company remains confident it will deliver the first series production aircraft to the UK in June next year.

Bob Haslam, Eurofighter managing director, says missing IPA1's first flight date is not a great concern, but he adds "I would lose sleep" if the first production aircraft is inadequate or if handover of the first production aircraft is delayed. Three IPAs are being assembled at BAE Systems at Warton, Alenia in Turin and EADS Germany at Manching. EADS Casa will start building IPA4 shortly.

Haslam is confident that hand over of a production two-seater to the first UK Royal Air Force unit at Warton will be on time despite the large volume of testing still needed to obtain the air-defence dedicated initial operating clearance (IOC). All four customer nations will initially base the aircraft at the Eurofighter Partner Companies' (EPC) test airfields to ease the transition into service.

Bob Schweinfurth, EADS Military Aircraft vice president Eurofighter programme management, says: "I think the difficulties are related to the start-up of manufacturing programmes, the initial teething problems." These problems include gaining experience with new manufacturing technologies and achieving higher production rates with new machines. He adds that the parallel development of Eurofighter while the IPAs are in production can also steepen the learning curve associated with building the new aircraft.

Schweinfurth says the 31 August milestone is "very ambitious, and I consider there is some risk to that date, which could be of the order of two months". He also is confident the first production aircraft will be handed over on time. Major components for this fighter are in manufacture, and Schweinfurth believes Eurofighter "will have overcome the teething troubles" once the aircraft goes into later production.

Meanwhile, the latest flight test campaign has started with the deployment last week of development aircraft DA5 from EADS Manching to the German air force's Laarge base near Rostock. EADS Military Aircraft chief test pilot Wolfgang Schirdewhan says the campaign will be two weeks of radar trials against large packages of aircraft.

Source: Flight International