Eurofighter is stepping up its campaign to win an order from the Netherlands as the four-nation management agency invited the country to join definition of Tranche 3 aircraft that are scheduled for delivery from 2010.

The NATO Eurofighter Management Organisation (NEFMO) has written to the Dutch defence ministry offering it the opportunity to join Eurofighter. The heads of arms procurement in the partner nations - Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - met the number two in the Netherlands defence ministry, Henk Van Hoof, during a trip to EADS' Manching factory in southern Germany as Flight International closed for press.

Eurofighter is battling against the US Joint Strike Fighter, with the Netherlands considering joining the engineering and manufacturing development phase of that programme. The selected aircraft will replace Lockheed Martin F-16s from around 2012. The winner will hope Europe's other F-16 operators, including Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Portugal, will follow the Dutch lead.

A Eurofighter source says the Netherlands can join NEFMO at no charge, but that Dutch industry will benefit if it pays a contribution. "The Netherlands could join the four nations in defining Tranche 3 without committing to procurement and with equal voting rights."

The source says Fokker could do a re-engineering study of the rear fuselage, which is likely to be structurally changed to make use of manufacturing technologies that provide weight and cost savings. This could also include modifications such as thrust-vectoring engines and conformal fuel tanks.

Companies in the Dutch VGT engine manufacturers' association, including Philips, Interturbine, Chromalloy and Urenco Aerospace, would be offered a role in developing the higher powered Eurojet EJ230.

Other potential Dutch participants include Thales Signaal, joining the team designing an electronically scanned antenna for the Captor radar, and the NLR and TNO research organisations.

Source: Flight International