Eurofighter Typhoon looks secure for the foreseeable future, with 46 aircraft accepted by the customer air forces and the production contract for the second tranche signed.
Eurofighter GmbH has firm contracts for 620 aircraft for the partner air forces, and the aircraft's first export customer, Austria, has ordered 18 more.
Eurofighter's recent €14 billion ($17 billion) contract for 236 aircraft from Tranche 2, signed in December 2004, builds on the first tranche total of 148 aircraft, and will see the delivery of 89 more aircraft to the UK (joining 55 from Tranche 1), 68 to Germany (joining 44), 46 to Italy (joining 29) and 33 to Spain (joining 20 Tranche 1 aircraft).
Of 46 aircraft in service with the four nations' air forces - 14 RAF, 10 Luftwaffe, nine Italian and eight Spanish - 11 are the current Block 2 software standard, and nine of these are single seaters. By the end of May, these aircraft had flown 3,130h, with the RAF accounting for almost 1,500 of this. IOC was declared on 13 December. The test fleet - seven surviving DA batch aircraft, five instrumented production aircraft (IPA) and a single instrumented production aircraft (ISPA) - have flown a further 3,700h. Eurofighter will build 41 Typhoons this year, and production should have reached a rate of four aircraft per month by the year's end.
There are only two basic versions of the Eurofighter, single- and two-seat, and every effort has been made to ensure that all four nations receive an aircraft to the same software and hardware standard, and even single-customer weapons integrations have been avoided in favour of fleetwide software and clearances.
Aircraft within each tranche share the same hardware standard. Capabilities are added on an incremental basis, with successive blocks introducing new software. Within Tranche 1, Block 1 aircraft have only a basic air-to-air capability, with four AMRAAM and two short-range (ASRAAM or AIM-9) missiles, and two underwing tanks.
Block 2 aircraft, now in service with all four partner air forces, have an enhanced air defence capability, and will add Phase 1 IRIS-T missiles, and Initial DASS, Initial Direct Voice Input, Initial Sensor Fusion and MIDS.
While Dassault has just delivered the Arm‚e de l'Air's first single seat Rafale, Eurofighter has delivered single-seat Block 2 aircraft to all four partner nations.
The first of two Spanish single-seaters was accepted on 29 December 2004, while the first of a pair of Luftwaffe single-seaters was handed over on 11 February. The RAF took the first of two on 30 March and in April, the delivery of IS002 to 4¡ Stormo 'Amadeo d'Aosta' at Grosseto from Alenia's final assembly facilities in Turin meant that all four partner air forces operated series production single-seaters to Block 2 standards.
Italy now has three single-seaters, while the UK and Spain also have a Block 2 twin-sticker. These aircraft have PSP2 (Production System Package) capability with Initial Defensive Aids Subsystem (DASS), Multifunctional Information and Distribution System (MIDS), Initial Direct Voice Input (DVI) and Sensor Fusion.
Block 2B will have the Phase 4 Standard Flight Control System software, giving full air-to-air carefree handling, and will carry outboard AAMs.
The initial priority for Typhoon, unlike Rafale, was the air-to-air role, but a swing-role capability has been brought forward and will be available in Block 5 - the last 27 aircraft of Tranche 1 - and then by retrofit. This will have full DASS, full Sensor Fusion, full DVI, FLIR/Infrared Search and Tracker and full air-to-surface carefree handling. The aircraft will carry AIM-120C-5 AMRAAM missiles, GBU-16 and Paveway II laser guided bombs, and full air-to-surface capability for the gun.
Dassault has chosen to integrate Scalp-EG stand-off missiles on Rafale, but has delayed the integration of laser guided bombs, which are cheaper and arguably more useful, until the F3 production standard. Eurofighter took a different path, integrating LGBs and free fall GPS/laser guided weapons before integrating stand-off weapons such as Storm Shadow. The Typhoon has already flown with two and four Paveway IIs, and has completed flutter clearances for the weapon.
RAF aircraft will also have a so-called Austere air-to-ground capability with a Litening 3 laser designator pod and Enhanced Paveway II GPS/Laser-guided bombs. Raytheon's Enhanced Paveway bombs were originally selected by the UK Ministry of Defence in response to an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) to satisfy the RAF's need for an all-weather day/night air-launched precision guided-bomb.
This was a result of lessons learned from the Kosovo campaign, where bad weather and heavy cloud curtailed laser targeting, and in Iraq where dust and debris could sometimes limit operations.
The dual-mode targeting capability of Enhanced Paveway II (UK) achieved a median accuracy significantly better than 3m (10ft) during trials. Raytheon Systems (RSL) will announce that it has been awarded a £2 million ($3.6 million) contract by BAE Systems to support the integration of the Enhanced Paveway II (UK) guided bomb onto the Typhoon at the show.
The Typhoon will achieve Full Operational Capability (FOC) with Block 5; FOC, the end product of the Main Development Contract, will be delivered by industry during 2006 and cleared by the customers in 2007.
Further multirole capabilities, including Taurus, Storm Shadow and Scalp stand-off missiles will be added during Tranche 2, but the final contents of the so-called Future Capability Package (which has replaced the EOC 1 and EOC 2 packages) and the order in which specific new weapons will be integrated are under negotiation. It is known, however, that the first Block 8, Tranche 2 aircraft will have Block 5 capabilities hosted on the new Tranche 2 hardware. The first Tranche 2 forward fuselage is now structurally complete at BAE's Samlesbury plant.
Source: Flight Daily News