Germany and Italy are considering buying more two-seat Eurofighter versions to increase the strike power of their air forces. Senior Luftwaffe and Aeronautica Militare Italia staff officers say that they are studying options for using Eurofighter as deep strike platforms armed with a wide variety of precision guided munitions. The studies that generated these new operational requirements were launched after last year's Kosovo conflict, which highlighted shortcomings in the attack capabilities of many European air forces. The Eurofighter partner countries - Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain - are currently conducting negotiations with the Eurofighter consortium on the contract for the second tranche of 236 of the mutli-role combat aircraft, which is due to go into production between 2002 and 2009. The first tranche of 148 Eurofighters are being produced under a DM14 billion ($6.7 billion) fixed price contract. Spanish air force Brig Gen Yago de Bobadilla, director of operations and engineering of the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency, says his customers were keen to provide the Eurofighter with what is termed "enhanced operation capability" to use a wide range of advanced precision guided weapons.

Factors to be taken into account include more proportionality, minimum collateral damage, precision, zero friendly casualties, persistence and non-lethal warfare, he says. The Luftwaffe wants to use 40 of its 180 Eurofighters as "swing-role" aircraft armed with laser guided bombs and either the Taurus or Storm Shadow stand-off guided weapons. They will replace Panavia Tornado strike aircraft, while the first batches of Eurofighters will be used in air supremacy roles. Lt Col Thomas Hullena of the German Eurofighter introduction team says Luftwaffe studies show a second crew member could help improve efficiency during swing-role missions. This might result in more two-seaters being ordered for the Luftwaffe in the place of single-seaters.

Italy is also reconsidering its Eurofighter procurement plans and has redesignated two squadrons from air defence duties to swing-role missions. Col Vittorio Iannotta, of the Italian air staff in Rome, says the Aeronautica Militare Italia is considering changing the mix of its 121 aircraft procurement, to buy 10 additional two-seaters. "One pilot has limitations," he says. "We are studying changing some of our single-seaters to two seaters."

British military sources say there are currently no plans for the Royal Air Force to change the single-two seat mix of the 232 Eurofighters it is to receive. "The RAF is not using the Eurofighter to replace its strike Tornados. It will just replace the Tornado F3 fighters and Jaguar ground attack aircraft," says the source. "It is banking on the Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) to take on the work of the current Tornado strike fleet."

Source: Flight Daily News