Eurofighter has been given the go-ahead by the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) to begin development of the fighter's aircrew synthetic training aids (ASTA).

Industry had expected to see ASTA development get under way in late July, following a Eurofighter brokered resolution of a dispute between Germany, which has programme leadership on ASTA, and the UK (Flight International, 13-19 June). At one stage it looked likely that the UK would withdraw from ASTA and develop a national solution.

Massimo Tarantola, Eurofighter support phase programme director, says NETMA gave the go-ahead last week for ASTA development to begin and it is expected that a contract will be signed by year-end. Initial funding was due by the end of September.

The contract will be worth just under DM2 billion ($900 million)and will see the delivery of the first Eurofighter cockpit trainer in the first half of 2004 - Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK will receive one each - says Tarantola. More capable full mission simulators are to be handed over between December 2004 and June 2005, he adds.

Production of the training devices - by the four nation ESS Consortium - could be complicated, says Tarantola, by the UK's likely use of its private finance initiative system to provide training devices and the possible use of similar schemes by the other partners.

Much of the delay resulted from the need to reduce ASTA's cost by around DM165 million to meet German funding issues, say industry sources. The saving was achieved by minor changes to the specification, add the sources. there may also be some changes to the workshare to reflect Germany's reduced contribution.

Source: Flight International