The consortium behind the Eurofighter Typhoon's engine has hinted strongly that it could partner a non-European country - possibly India - to develop and demonstrate a thrust-vectoring version of the EJ200 as part of a technology-sharing deal.
Eurojet is keen to source funds to test its thrust vectoring nozzle (TVN) on a flight demonstrator. It believes if it can obtain enough in-flight data, it will be able to prove the lifecycle cost benefits of the technology - which has been in development for over a decade - to current and future customers.
However, military budget pressures facing the four Eurofighter launch nations - Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - and scepticism about the advantages of a capability associated more with spectacular air show manoeuvres than operating prudence will make it difficult to secure backing from existing customers.
Instead, the four-nation industrial combine and Eurofighter plan to discuss with possible export customers offset and technology transfer packages that would include "growth potential" for the fighter.
"We are evaluating future markets and a number of RFPs [requests for proposal] have asked for potential growth," says Adrian Johnson, senior vice-president sales for Eurojet. "TVN is in there. It might be that a customer outside Europe could come on board and embrace that technology."
Although Eurofighter has secured Austria and Saudi Arabia as export customers and is pitching the Typhoon at countries such as Greece, Japan, Romania, Switzerland and Turkey, India is the most likely partner because of the size of its requirement and the fact that it is determined to develop its aerospace industrial base.
Another factor is that Eurojet is separately bidding against General Electric to supply the EJ200 for an improved version of India's single-engine Tejas light combat aircraft. A combined offer could provide sufficient economies to persuade India to fund a demonstration programme.
Johnson says Eurojet could be ready for a flight demonstration within 18-24 months, but stresses that the emphasis will be on obtaining data that backs the TVN's economic benefits rather than its enhanced dogfighting capability.
"Increasing agility isn't going to cause [potential customers] to back TVN," he says. "What will cause them to back it is a reduction in lifecycle costs. That's what we have to demonstrate and build a cast-iron case around."
Source: Flight International