Contract expected to be the first of several to shape "packages of improvements" to be delivered every two years

NETMA pledges to develop Eurofighter

Contract expected to be the first of several to shape "packages of improvements" to be delivered every two years

NETMA, the four nationEurofighter management agency, has signed an initial contract covering development of the Eurofighter beyond the Full Operational Capability - the first time that the partner nations of Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have committed to further developing the fighter.

The contract followed a meeting at the Berlin air show last week, says a NETMA source.

The contract, which covers the development of a new mission computer, is expected to be the first of a number which will shape Enhanced Operational Capability (EOC) 1 and EOC2, which are due to enter service in late 2006 and late 2008 respectively.

EOCs are "packages of improvements" which will be delivered every two years, says an industry source.

They are planned to be common to the four nations and a combination of their requirements for preplanned improvements and lessons from operational experience.

This is expected to reduce the cost of introducing additional weapons and capabilities while maintaining a minimum number of aircraft configurations throughout the four nations' fleets.

As well as the new mission computer the first EOCs will include new radios and datalinks to boost interoperability, additional air-to-surface weapons, integration of the MBDA Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and integration of more than one type of targeting pod. The four partner nations are not expected to select the same equipment.

EOCs will be retrofitted to in-service aircraft, although detailed planning for this has still to be decided, says the source.

Industry has been developing systems for EOC aircraft using internal funding, in an attempt to protect the schedules for in-service enhancements. NETMA's decision to start funding upgrades beyond FOC is also expected to help export sales efforts, as a number of potential customers have questioned when additional capabilities will be introduced.

EOC proposals will also affect the specification of aircraft built in tranche 2, a final contract for which is planned in the middle of next year. It is planned to fit the new computer to all 232 tranche 2 Eurofighters, allowing upgrading with EOC software as it becomes available.

Tranche 1 Eurofighters will receive the new computers in a retrofit programme that has yet to be defined.

Source: Flight International