The four launch Eurofighter nations look set sign a Tranche 3A contract for a combined 112 aircraft by late June, with their action to avert a costly gap in production of the combat aircraft.
"This was more or less the agreement that the undersecretaries [of defence] made when they met in Berlin, and I am confident that we will achieve that," says Eurofighter chief executive Enzo Casolini.
The four-nation industrial consortium had previously warned that a manufacturing break could occur if a deal was not concluded during the first quarter of this year, but Casolini says that a signature made before the nations' parliamentary summer breaks will enable suppliers to order long-lead items in time. "The real chances are that we won't have this kind of breach in the production," he says.
© Alenia Aeronautica
If concluded as planned, the Tranche 3A contract will include 40 aircraft for the UK, 30 for Germany and 21 each for Italy and Spain, says Casolini, who took charge of the Eurofighter programme in late April.
But in a twist on previous production plans, the UK's commitment includes just 16 "new" aircraft, as 24 of its total will be replacements for Tranche 2 Typhoons diverted for delivery to export customer Saudi Arabia (first example pictured, below). These had previously been set for replacement at the end of Tranche 2 production of the type. "This was the decision from the nations' undersecretaries, and we as industry accepted that decision," Casolini says.
© BAE Systems
The expected contract signature will launch further discussions linked to a requested 50% reduction in through-life costs for the Eurofighter. "With the new way of making in-service support - partnering between air force and industry - and a lot of other improvements that we can make, we believe that this is achievable," Casolini says.
It will also lead to talks to agree the Tranche 3A aircraft's final configuration. The availability of an active electronically scanned array radar will be one of the key topics to be discussed during this process. "We will have to think about this as soon as the contract is signed," says Casolini. "E-scan is a must for us, especially for the export market."
The partner nations should sign a deal for their subsequent Tranche 3B aircraft in around two years' time, says Eurofighter.