German defence minister Volker Rühe has told the federal parliament that 1998 funding for the Eurofighter EF2000 is secure. A cabinet procurement go-ahead is now expected at the end of this month.

Rühe's statement follows German press reports that the cabinet had again removed the EF2000 from the agenda of its early September meeting, failing to clear a DM23 billion ($14.3 billion) procurement plan which must then be approved by the parliamentary budget committee. The defence minister confirms that DM847 million has been set aside in the 1998 budget to finance the programme.

The defence budget is to be put to parliament for approval on 2 October, say sources in Bonn. All remaining administrative issues related to the EF2000 in Germany are to be cleared by the end of November, in time for the long-overdue signing of the production memorandum of understanding by the partner nations, scheduled for 12 December. Germany is expected to procure a total 180 aircraft.

Fears that the social-democratic opposition, the SPD, could attempt to gain political mileage by hauling the controversial programme to the fore in parliament are probably unfounded, say Bonn sources. The SPD is believed to be reluctant to do this, as the move would reveal the party's own sharp internal divisions on the issue.

The first German-built EF2000, development aircraft DA1, was returned to the Daimler-Benz Aerospace (Dasa) Manching site in August after the successful completion of a series of test flights from BritishAerospace Warton. The aircraft was flown in supersonic trials at low altitude over the Irish Sea, aimed at testing structural stress at high dynamic pressures.

According to Dasa, the DA1 has now exceeded 110h flight time, and has reached a maximum speed of Mach 1.87 during its stay in the UK - the highest speed yet reached by an EF2000. Dasa points out that this was achieved by an RB.199-powered aircraft: the operational EF2000's Eurojet EJ200 engine is about 20% more powerful.

Source: Flight International