Eurofighter stresses Typhoon's through-life development potential as it takes on the F-16 and others in the export market

As Eurofighter's partner companies (EPCs) move closer to the delivery of the first production aircraft in September next year, the fighter's capabilities post-2005 are now being considered.


Eurofighter will enter service in an air-defence dedicated initial operational capability (IOC) from 2002, which will be followed by the multi-role full operational capability (FOC) standard from 2005. A series of extended operational capabilities (EOC) will follow throughout Eurofighter's service life, introducing features without requiring a mid-life update (MLU).

Initially FOC and later EOC will form the basis of the Eurofighter Typhoon offered for export. The four-nation consortium is aiming to take half the 800-fighter market that it predicts will exist over the next 35 years. If Eurofighter International (EFI) meets its export targets, Eurofighter will have outpaced the SEPECAT Jaguar, Panavia Tornado, and Dassault's various Mirage models in the international marketplace, marking a renaissance in the European fighter industry.

At the heart of Eurofighter's success - if indeed it is successful - will be the ability to introduce new capabilities - weapons, sensors and systems - at regular intervals as part of the EOC process. Eurofighter managing director Bob Haslam says teams are looking at product strategy for the next 10-15 years and working to ensure that developments for export can be funded if the four nations do not sign up for the changes.

It will be the role of the International Weapon System Support System (IWSSS) to maintain control of such configuration changes and ensure a truly common aircraft across the fleets of Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Keeping a record of individual aircraft modifications and national changes are vital if Eurofighter in-service is not to mirror the Tornado. Although Tornado was a tri-national programme between Germany, Italy and the UK, the three countries' aircraft today are significantly different, with little commonality in systems, weapon fits and sensors. This situation has been exacerbated by MLUs, which are more complicated and expensive because of the lack of a single standard.

The variations in configuration have made the introduction of new weapons expensive. By the time each nation has declared the Tornado/ Paveway laser-guided bomb combination operational, the work will have been performed and paid for three times. Eurofighter aims to avoid this. A common configuration and software load will mean new weapons will need clearing only once, and the technical task will be simpler.

As well as giving potential customers access to a multinational support infrastructure, Eurofighter believes its four national production lines give it a head start in offering final assembly to customers. If a smaller number of aircraft are to be built, it will follow the model in place at Casa which is to build 87 Eurofighters, or if hundreds are to be acquired, it will use the BAE Systems model.

Eurofighter says software tools are its "crown jewels", adding: "The future is software integration. If you have an aircraft in service for 35 years, you have to have access to the software." The tools are in use on development rigs and will provide the four-nation NATO Eurofighter management agency NETMA with cost savings: "If one nation signs for a new anti-ship missile and another country comes along, it doesn't get charged again." Ross Bradley BAE Systems' programme director for Eurofighter/ Typhoon, says the tools will reduce the software batch development time from 40 to 18 months.

Having four partners and probably a first export customer - Greece - by the time the first fighter is delivered means the aircraft will be cleared for an array of weapons, including three short-range air-to-air missiles, for instance.

The IOC and FOC standards apply only to the first tranche of 148 aircraft. Tranche 2 configuration for 236 Eurofighters is unclear but it is being discussed and will build on the EOC work.

IWSSS, at the centre of Eurofighter's planned configuration management system, forms one of four unsigned support contracts. The others are industrial support, ground training aids and aircrew synthetic training aids (ASTA).

Eurofighter's support phase programme director, Massimo Tarantola, says the consortium will manage software updates through IWSSS and will ensure the changes are fed back into ASTA - military simulators are notorious for not mirroring the real aircraft once updates have been introduced.

The four nations have not signed up to IWSSS but they understand the principle, says Tarantola. Questions remain over cost and implementation. BAE is prime contractor and will be supported by the EPCs - Alenia, CASA and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa) - which will create national centres combining air force and company resources. A proposal will go to the consortium's board in the third quarter of this year to ensure the organisational system is in place.

Tarantola says it is a "complex issue" and requires the air force to alter the way in which front-line aircraft fleets are managed, configured and modified. "We are working to set up a system that can manage the configuration including in-service and operational changes."

The system is at the heart of what Eurofighter will be able to offer potential export customers. Access to continual updates will ensure the fighter remains operationally effective during its 30-40 year life, eliminating the need for expensive and complicated MLUs, and a large fleet of single-standard machines should significantly reduce through-life costs because of common support and reduced spares holdings.

Implementation is similar - today a problem is identified, a proposal is drawn up by the national centres and then approved, update kits are issued and embodied. However, under IWSSS the national centres will also pass the change to the centralised IWSSS which, in turn, will flow the change out to the other operators rather than each air force developing a unique solution. Individual aircraft will be tracked by tail number to ensure that its configuration/ modification state is known at all times.

"We are trying to introduce upgrades every two years, rolling updates, including new sensors and weapons," says Tarantola, who adds that the system will provide "common building blocks" for each customer to use Eurofighter as they want. Haslam says this system will also provide a central underwriting of modifications. Such standardisation also reduces the size of the central spares pool.

In simple terms, IWSSS will make supporting Eurofighter similar to supporting a desktop computer. Every few years, a new operating system is issued and the computer is updated. The new software may introduce functionality not required by the user, who ignores the new capabilities but benefits from improved reliability and speed in the areas that are used. If, at some stage, a change in the nature of the job means that some of that functionality is required, the user starts to use it without having to acquire more software.

Upgrading Eurofighter software will be a relatively modest exercise, with the aircraft grounded for a few days. Eurofighter will be delivered with physical growth capacity to absorb such improvements. The contract includes a requirement for a 10% expansion of avionics volume, a 25% boost in electrical power and environmental control system performance, and a doubling of databus load, computer processing and memory. Haslam says this will allow "themes" within a common standard.

EOC has not been fixed, says Haslam. "The nations will formulate their requirements. We're at the front end of the debate that will shape the aircraft." He admits it would be easier if the four nations required a common standard, but this is unlikely. This will, however, provide EFI with more options to offer potential customers.

Haslam says Eurofighter is aiming for upgrades that can provide "obsolescence proofing". Modular systems and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems are more easily modified than those using customised components. Operating systems allow hardware to be modified without upgrading the software, he says, adding: "This allows us to harness improvements in computing, which means we are not stuck with old equipment and expensive, critical path software."

Haslam says this system, compared with the MLU process, allows changes to be focused on areas that need improving, such as electronic support measures or countermeasures, rather than the complete aircraft. The exchange/ "hole-in-the-wall" support system links in with this approach, he adds. A unit can be upgraded during routine maintenance and returned to the operator without further work being needed. Processor improvements will benefit the Captor (formerly ECR90) radar, providing a continuous improvement path. One obvious radar change would be replacement of the mechanically scanned array with an active electronically scanned equivalent developed as part of the multinational AMSAR effort.

Eurofighter is to be introduced into service predominantly as an air-defence fighter, but the aircraft is sold as a swing-role aircraft, able to depart on an combat air patrol but be switched in flight to an air-to-ground mission. Much of the air-to-ground development is being pushed by the UK Royal Air Force, which will take advantage of Eurofighter's multi-role capability much sooner than its three partners. A Eurofighter source says these improvements will reflect the lessons of recent operations, including last year's Operation Allied Force, and the move away from reliance on laser-guided bombs toward all-weather - which laser guidance is not - low or no collateral damage weapons. There is, however, "recognition that you need a range of weapons to do all the potential jobs", says the source.

NETMA's director of operations and engineering, Brig Gen Yago de Bobadilla, says that non-lethal weapons, proportionality and persistence will be key considerations for EOC.

Technology acquisition

Some future capabilities are likely to be introduced into Eurofighter from continuing technology development and demonstration plans, including those aimed at providing systems for the manned element of the UK's Future Offensive Air System (FOAS), which is earmarked as a Tornado replacement from 2018-20.

BAE's Bradley says such developments could include extended range, already considered through the use of upper fuselage-mounted conformal tanks, further growth in air-to-ground capabilities, and enhancements of the platform's low-observability characteristics. This last development could include the introduction of an internal weapons bay, which would displace some of the fuel volume, which could be rectified by the conformal tanks.

At present, each sensor, be it defensive aids subsystem, radar or forward-looking infrared (FLIR), is managed by its own processor. These could be brought together in a single chip, which would be more efficient and cut costs. Improvement in sensor arrays will mean that by 2010, when Tranche 3 deliveries begin, 360í sensor coverage around the aircraft will be possible, providing increased situational awareness.

More powerful Eurojet EJ200 engines and thrust vectoring (TVC) are also possibilities. TVC will bring benefits for normal operations, reducing trim drag and improving cruise performance. In the extreme, it also allows removal of the tail with attendant improvements in drag and range performance.

Hole-in-the-wall spares

The industrial support concept offered by the consortium to the four partner nations could become a significant factor in sales campaigns because it eliminates the need for a customer to create expensive logistics chains for a new fighter. Eurofighter is developing a second proposal for industrial support after the four nations rejected an earlier offer.

Tarantola says the original bid failed because the technical and commercial requirements were too demanding, resulting in the bid being too expensive: "We were asking for a Ferrari with VW money." A fact-finding exercise with the top 10 suppliers in the early part of this year led to the drafting of simpler and more relaxed requirements. The follow-on request for proposals was issued in mid-May and will be responded to by mid-November.

The system will work by reducing support to two levels - operator and industry. The former will perform today's first-line tasks - preparation of the aircraft for flight, including fuelling, arming and daily inspections - as well as some second-line tasks - essentially removing unserviceable line replaceable units (LRUs) and returning them to Eurofighter.

Eurofighter will provide a "hole-in-the-wall" system on the main operating base. Unserviceable equipment will be handed through the hole and a serviceable item returned. Eurofighter will then transfer the unserviceable article to the manufacturer, who will repair it and return it to a central spares pool. An LRU pulled from a UK aircraft will not necessarily return to that country.

Operators benefit from a common spares pool that reduces the number of items needed, and therefore the cost, and because uniformed technicians are more expensive than civilians. Industry benefits because the incentive contract means the companies receive more income as reliability improves. This system is offered to export customers.

The air forces have differing views on the repair of components from the aircraft. The German air force will have no organic capability but its personnel will account for about 40% of the workforce at a Dasa facility, says Col Gunter May of the German defence ministry's logistics and planning staff. The RAF and Italian air force will have a mixed organic/industrial capability, and Spain has not decided on its mix.

In the RAF's case, this is driven by its frequent deployments away from its main operating bases. When this happens, it will take flyaway spares packs to create a mobile buffer of stock. Increases in operational tempo will be supported by boosting the number of packs.

Eurofighter's objective is clear - to provide a fighter with an easy upgrade path and simple support system to offer against the well-established competitors - including Lockheed Martin's F-16 - and emerging rivals such as Dassault's Rafale, Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and, in the longer term, the Joint Strike Fighter.

To succeed, however, the consortium will need the four partner nations to sign up to its core proposals, IWSSS and hole-in-the-wall support.

Source: Flight International