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Eurofighter faces pivotal year for Typhoon programme, says chief executive

This year will be pivotal for the Eurofighter programme if production lines are not to stop in 2015.

The four-nation project has to secure orders for either Tranche 3B aircraft - now under review by Italy and the UK - or export sales in 2011 or face making mass lay-offs in four years' time.

That is the stark message from Eurofighter chief executive Enzo Casolini, who describes this as a "year of transition" for the company. He adds: "At the moment the situation looks a little bit dark. If you judge from 25 January what will happen at the end of 2015 I have to tell you that we will close production lines. But we are making a lot of effort in several directions."

Italain air force Eurofighters, Eurofighter
 © Eurofighter

Chief among these is the ongoing competition for the Indian air force's medium multi-role combat aircraft, which has the potential to deliver orders for up to 126 fighters. Casolini believes that intensive political lobbying from Eurofighter's four partner nations will be vital to secure the contract.

Aside from India, he identifies Japan, Malaysia and the Gulf states as other key potential customers for large orders.

There is also the possibility of selling smaller numbers into eastern Europe, he points out, particularly if nations can be persuaded to pool resources to lower their in-service costs.

"If they all have the same sort of fighter then it is easier to create a common logistic support system and therefore cost is minimised," Casolini says. He identifies the Czech and Slovak Republics and Poland as ideal for a system of shared support.

Eurofighter has also seen Denmark make a tentative approach towards re-igniting its interest in the Typhoon, having apparently backed away from an earlier preference to order Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter without staging a competition.

Casolini believes there is a global requirement for around 800 fighter aircraft, of which Eurofighter could secure 200.

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