The Eurofighter consortium remains confident about its prospects in a slew of Asian fighter competitions, believing that its new radar and weapons could help it win contracts in what has so far been a barren region for the team.
“Countries like Malaysia, South Korea and Japan need a new-generation multirole fighter that can be effective against many of the other aircraft in the region, including the Russian Flankers or Super-Flankers or Chinese J-10 or J-11. Their threat perceptions also vary – some may need more interceptor roles and others maritime roles,” says Oreste Fabbro, Eurofighter’s vice-president for market analysis.
“The Eurofighter can perform all of those roles far more effectively than its competitors. This is a newer aircraft that is highly competitive on price, and we are open to discussions on industrial participation on a high degree. It also comes with the AESA radar and Meteor missile, which we believe will be important considerations for potential customers who are looking to increase their capabilities.”
The E-Captor active electronically scanned array will keep the “back-end” from the Typhoon’s current mechanically scanned radar, but deliver increases in detection and tracking range, plus improved capability when using air-to-surface weapons, Eurofighter says.
The new array will also be mounted on a repositioner to widen its field of view and will be available from 2015, when many of the Asian countries require their aircraft.
MBDA’s Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile is also available for Typhoon customers. So far, only the UK has placed a firm order for the weapon, which will arm its Eurofighters in operational use from 2015.
In Asia, Malaysia is increasingly gearing up to be an important competition. Kuala Lumpur has asked for information on the Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Saab Gripen, while Russian arms export agency Rosoboronexport is pushing for Sukhoi’s Su-35 to be included. Initial aircraft assessments have begun, with Malaysian officials expected to visit Eurofighter facilities in the near future.
Funding for an initial payment for an order is likely to be included in the next Malaysian five-year plan, with a decision possible within the 2013-14 timeframe, say industry sources. Industrial participation could be a key factor.
“We already are a largely composite aircraft and can tap on the technical know-how that some Malaysian companies have for that. We will also look at other ways of involving local companies in the programme,” says Fabbro.
The Typhoon’s participation in South Korea’s FX III competition will depend on the number of aircraft that Seoul plans to buy. The programme specifies a requirement for 120 fighters, and Seoul has ordered 60 Boeing F-15Ks in the first two phases. The Typhoon lost in the second phase, but Fabbro says the consortium has learned its lesson.
“We did not have an aircraft that was ready to meet their requirements the last time, but we do this time,” he says. “However, we will only go in if the Koreans have a tender for another 60 aircraft. If they split it into another 20-40 tender, in anticipation of a fourth phase that includes the [Lockheed Martin] F-35, we won’t take part as they are unlikely to choose a different aircraft for a 20-fighter requirement,” he adds.
Japan’s F-X competition has been in limbo for the past two years, with Tokyo still hoping to convince the US government to release the Lockheed F-22 Raptor for export sales. Political uncertainty due to infighting within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan has added to the delay, as has ongoing worries over the readiness of the F-35 programme to meet Tokyo’s aim of inducting a new aircraft around 2015.
That leaves the Typhoon, Super Hornet and Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle, which are being considered under a request for information as well. Fabbro says that Japan’s irritation with the USA over its stance on the F-22 could help the Typhoon.
“They know that all we want to do is sell a fighter, and there is no political agenda behind it. We are willing to work with the local industry has well, and that is something Japan wants. We believe that we stand a good chance there,” Fabbro says.