Eurofighter partner nations could divide their Tranche 3 production orders for a combined 236 aircraft into two phases, while interest in a key radar enhancement has reached a new high, says the industrial consortium's chief executive Aloysius Rauen.

Negotiations with Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK are continuing via the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency, with a contract signature required in the first quarter of 2009.

Stressing that none of the core nations has requested a cut in numbers from their 620-aircraft umbrella deal, Rauen says: "We have difficult budget situations - that is not new. So long as no-one changes the numbers or changes dramatically the delivery schedule, then we can handle that." One option could be to split the programme's so-called Supplement 4 work into two phases, he says, enabling nations to stretch their financial contributions.

Rauen also confirms that cash-strapped nations could even sell on some of their existing or future Typhoons to potential export users in a bid to overcome their current budgetary difficulties. "If one nation decides to sell Eurofighters out of their fleet, they are allowed to do that in principle," he says.

 Eurofighter typhoon

Speaking at Eurofighter's Hallbergmoos headquarters near Munich on 30 September, Rauen refuted claims of a recent increase in programme costs. The consortium's Tranche 3 proposal is "within, or pretty close to" the maximum total agreed under the umbrella deal, while additional obsolescence costs "were not costed, priced or agreed" previously, he says.

"They need to come to a decision in a foreseeable timeframe, otherwise we will have difficulties with production continuity," warns Rauen. "That will create further costs, which are not in the budget."

Meanwhile, interest in equipping the Typhoon's current mechanically scanned Euroradar Captor radar with an active electronically scanned array front end has increased. The step is viewed as a means of both strengthening European capabilities and enhancing export prospects for the type, most notably in a contest to supply at least at least 126 aircraft to the Indian air force.

"We are in serious discussions regarding E-scan capabilities. They are looking for an operationally ready system, and we are working hard for that," says Rauen. "The first discussions that we have had with the core nations and with India regarding such an approach are positive."

Eurofighter companies Alenia Aeronautica, BAE Systems, EADS Casa and EADS Deutschland will meanwhile deliver up to 19 Tranche 2 Typhoons to the programme's partner air forces before year-end, while Saudi Arabia's first of 72 will follow by June 2009. A total of 63 Tranche 2 aircraft are now in final assembly.

Source: Flight International