Douglas Barrie/LONDON

Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

GERMAN FINANCIAL objections over costing the Eurofighter programme have wrecked plans to sign a critical memorandum of understanding (MoU) on 19 May.

UK Minister for Defence Procurement Roger Freeman is due to visit his German counterpart, Jorg Schonbohm, on 19 May, with one of the intentions being to sign off what is known as MoU Four, which covers the re-orientation of the programme following a 1992 decision to slow development and production.

Concluding MoU Four also clears the way for the production investment phase of the programme, during which the participating countries - Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - will have to resolve the vexed issue of work-share allocation.

The delay in signing MoU Four is the result of a highly critical report into the Eurofighter programme by the German Government's financial watchdog, the Bundesrechnungshof (BRH), released on 9 May.

The report claims that each Eurofighter will cost up to DM170 million ($124 million), a figure which the German defence ministry treats with ridicule.

The ministry admits, however, that, as a result of the report, the signing of MoU Four will be delayed. It is, having to provide additional information to the budget and defence committees, following the BRH's claims.

"The situation is a little bit difficult, or rather the BRH has made the situation difficult," says the defence ministry. The BRH has a history of hostility toward the Eurofighter programme.

While the report is not viewed in political circles as a "show stopper", it is being met with annoyance. Within the MoU Four agreement were some DM375 million in re-orientation costs for German industry, which cannot be released until the MoU is signed.

While political machinations continue to bedevil the programme at a technical level, industry is struggling with flight-control software changes to prepare the aircraft for the Paris air show.

Fast taxi trials with Development Aircraft 2 at Warton were due to occur, around 11 May with a first flight shortly thereafter.

If this is achieved, it will leave just enough time, weather permitting, to work up a flying display programme for the Paris air show in June.

Source: Flight International