Jon Lake

Eurofighter is no longer a 'paper aeroplane', with the announcement that final assembly of the first of 148 aircraft in 'Tranche 1' will begin at BAE Systems Warton on 8 September. The German final assembly line will start six weeks later, and the Italian line six weeks after that. With 620 aircraft on order, the Eurofighter programme already looks set to be one of the largest military programmes of the post Cold War era, and marketing efforts seem to be bearing fruit at last. "The fact that the aircraft is finally in production has boosted its credibility, and will immediately help the marketing effort," says Bob Haslam, managing director of Eurofighter GmbH. The quadrinational consortium is working towards an Autumn contract signing in Greece, and although there have been well-publicised delays in Norway, the aircraft remains under consideration, and may be the strongest contender.


Senior sources at Eurofighter GmbH confirmed that the Republic of Korea is the next most likely prospect for the aircraft, while they are also bullish about the prospects of further sales in Europe. While recognising the strength of the links between Netherlands and Lockheed Martin, some within Eurofighter are 'very optimistic' of an eventual sale to the Netherlands. "The Netherlands is a country of pragmatic and practical people and they are wise enough to make a decision based on the facts," says one senior figure from Alenia Aerospazio.

"By the Spring of 2001 they will have to pay $1 Bn to enter the second phase of JSF EMD, yet will still have nothing they can bite!"

Success in Norway and the Netherlands would give the aircraft six European customers, holding out a tantalising possibility. "Eurofighter could become the glue of the new European Defence movement if we succeed in these countries," says Alenia's Gianfranco Vinci.

Source: Flight Daily News