EUROFIGHTER IS IN a race against time to prepare the EF2000 combat aircraft for its debut at the Paris air show in June.

Further delays to the testing of upgraded flight-control software could force cancellation of the aircraft's appearance.

The software was handed over to Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) for rig testing at Ottobrunn, near Munich, by GEC-Marconi Avionics in February. Eurofighter programme sources estimate that software tests will carry on into early May.

The timetable leaves little room for further delays, if the British Aerospace-built Development Aircraft 2 (DA2) is to be flown at the show. The DA2 is scheduled to be the first of the test aircraft to resume flying.

The aircraft is expected to be airborne by mid-May, giving enough time for it to be prepared for the show. Much of the preparation will also be dependent on the weather at BAe's Warton site in northwest England. A delay could either place tighter limitations on manoeuvres permitted during the display, or prevent an appearance altogether.

Resumption of flight testing of the DA2 is to be followed closely by the maiden flight of the DA3 - the first of the test aircraft to be fitted with the new Eurojet EJ200 engine, offering some 25% more power than the earlier aircraft's Turbo-Union RB199s.

Major airframe fatigue tests (MAFT) on the Eurofighter structure passed 5,000h on 17 March. The tests are being carried out by Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft at Ottobrunn and involve simulation on a hydraulic test rig of the loads, encountered by an airframe during take-off, in flight and during landing. The tests are to continue up to 18,000h, and are expected to end in January 1997. The MAFT is to confirm the Eurofighter's predicted 6,000h airframe life, about 50% greater than previous combat aircraft.

Source: Flight International