Eurofighter has carried out the first supersonic flight tests with a towed radar decoy (TRD)deployed from the EF2000: a milestone in the development of the aircraft's defensive aids subsystem (DASS).
The ability to use the GEC-Marconi decoy at supersonic speeds is crucial in beyond visual range engagements, when a pilot will want to launch at high speed to give his missile as much initial energy as possible, while minimising his own vulnerability to counterattack by deploying the decoy against active radar guided missiles.
UK-based development aircraft DA2 moved to DASS testing following the completion in January of the first phase of "carefree handling" trials with the latest release of digital flight control system (DFCS) software, FCS 2A.Trials have also been flown by Royal Air Force test pilot Craig Penrice.
The tests clear the way for the aircraft to be flown throughout its full flight envelope in relatively clean air to air configurations with up to six missiles. This version of the software will now be fitted to all seven EF2000 flight test aircraft.
According to Eurofighter managing director Brian Phillipson, the next step in DFCS development will be the release of the 2B version of the software, which will introduce features such as the autopilot and clear the aircraft for carefree handling in all stores configurations.
Once testing of FCS 2B is complete, it will be refined into FCS 3, which will be the version used on initial production aircraft, which will fly from 2001.
Germany, which withdrew from the Eurodass consortium in 1991 to pursue its own cheaper DASS solution, is still re-assessing its defensive aids requirement. The rival Daimler-Benz Aerospace (Dasa)TRD is earlier in its development than its GEC rival, and the German air force has carried out flight trials of the GECdecoy on its Panavia Tornados.
"I would not be at all surprised if at some point in the future [Germany] decides to re-equip a substantial part of its [Eurofighter] fleet with the same defensive aids as the other nations," says Phillipson.
DA2 and the German-built DA1 are now laid up for installation of Martin Baker Mk16 ejection seats, the 3910-standard avionic system and Eurojet EJ200 engines, replacing the RB199 powerplants the aircraft have been flying with to date. The Italian-built engine research aircraft, DA3, is now in use for testing the latest version 03A of the EJ200, and is also performing envelope expansion trials with underwing fuel tanks.
Aircraft DA4 has now resumed radar testing, having completed a detachment to an RAF fighter base for ground trials with auxiliary power unit and engines running, and ground loading tests, carried out in a hardened aircraft shelter. The other radar test aircraft, DA5, is now being refitted with a full armament control system, and will join DA3 in fuel tank trials.
Spanish-built DA6 is being equipped with specially calibrated EJ200s for performance measurements. Italian aircraft DA7 has returned to Caselle from the first AIM-9L Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM release demonstrations in Sardinia, and is undergoing structural coupling ground tests of the DFCS with external stores configurations.