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Fighting for a foothold

As Eurofighter clears the last development hurdle, it now confronts the next big challenge - securing export sales

Stewart Penney/MUNICH

As Farnborough International 2000 kicks off, the Eurofighter programme stands poised to move from development to production. Although development will not be completed for a number of years, more effort is being concentrated on delivery of operational fighters on cost and schedule.

This September, BAE Systems at Warton will start final assembly of instrumented production aircraft (IPA) 1 followed by IPA2 at Alenia's Caselle factory and IPA4 at DaimlerChrysler Aerospace's Manching facility by the end of the year. IPA1 is due to fly in August next year and the first Eurofighter - a two-seater for the UK Royal Air Force - should be handed over in June 2002.

For now, development continues apace. Earlier this month, development aircraft (DA) 2 flew with flight control software (FCS) 2B/2, avionics software (AVS) 3B-1 and utility control software (UCS) 3B/3. This is one of the few times that the three have been upgraded at once, says Luis Munoz, Eurofighter's development phase director. These upgrades will be followed later this year by software with further increments towards the initial operational capability (IOC) standards that will be flown in the early part of next year.

AVS 3B2 is due for clearance in November, with the IOC standard 3C reaching the same stage in December. IOC-standard FCS 3 will be cleared in January next year. Rig testing of improved software standards is under way. Meanwhile, the DAs are being laid up to receive the latest software and other modifications. DA1 will be the last to be upgraded, leaving it with earlier standard coding for the daily air display at Farnborough. The DAs will have less downtime in future, with upgrades limited to updating just the required software for individual aircraft test programmes.

To ensure the key dates are met, Eurofighter has identified the potential worst failure cases and has focused on risk mitigation, says Munoz. Eurofighter managing director Bob Haslam agrees, saying the last software uploading was late because missing equipment meant the test rigs was not available. To mitigate risk with further testing, more spares have been acquired and suppliers have been brought in to work on-site alongside the Eurofighter Partner Companies (EPCs). Haslam says that if the contract was simply for the development phase, this would be a costly initiative. But the significantly more valuable production contract is running concurrently, making the investment worthwhile - particularly as there are stiff penalties for late production deliveries.

To ensure that risk is being reduced and the programme is moving ahead smoothly, Eurofighter has offered the four-partner nation management agency NETMA an additional overall programme review (OPR). OPR normally takes place annually, and this year's was passed successfully in May. The extra OPR is scheduled for September, by which time IPA1 will be in final assembly and IOC standard software will be in rig-test.

Munoz says more than 1,300h have been flown and a further 1,200h are required before IOC is reached. Part of IOC requires the flight envelope to be fully opened and full carefree handling to be available.

Sensor fusion work is continuing, says Munoz, with further algorithm development work in progress at Dasa. Working algorithms and models are in place and have been used for some ground tests. The IOC standard Captor (formerly ECR90) radar has been cleared for the aircraft and work continues to integrate the sensor with air-to-air missiles.

Recent support phase milestones include the signing of a ground support system deal and submission of the proposal for aircrew synthetic training aids. At one stage, it was feared that disagreement between the EPCs and partner nations would mean the UK withdrawing from this element and seeking its own solution.

Export drive

While Eurofighter works to complete development for Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, its sister marketing company Eurofighter International (EFI) is increasing its sales effort. EFI president Cesare Gianni aims to generate about £35 billion ($53 billion) from the 400-odd aircraft it intends to sell. This is about half the market predicted for fighters over the next 30 years.

Initial success has been scored in Greece against competition from the Boeing F-15E Eagle, Dassault Rafale and Sukhoi Su-27/37. Negotiations are continuing for between 60 and 90 aircraft. Optimistic predictions suggest the deal could be done during Farnborough week, but later in the summer is more realistic.

Gianni claims Eurofighter was the bid preferred by the Norwegian air force and industry. The competition has been shelved, possibly for up to 10 years. Eurofighter will continue a political lobbying campaign, he says, and in the long term, "Norway is still winnable".

By delaying its selection, Norway will be in a position to select between the Joint Strike Fighter and Eurofighter. This underlines the problem facing EFI - today it must compete against well-established fighters such as the Lockheed Martin F-16, but if competitions are delayed, the JSF will be its key rival.

EFI is turning its attention to another Lockheed Martin F-16 European Participation Air Force, the Netherlands. That country is evaluating the fighters - and the associated industrial offset - likely to be available around 2010, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin's JSF proposals, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen. A report is expected by the end of this year, after which the Netherlands is expected to decide whether to continue JSF participation as the programme moves into engineering and manufacturing demonstration.

Gianni says "major political and industrial pressure" is being applied for it to stay with JSF. "Strong European governmental support is required to generate an attractive military, industrial and political alternative," he adds.

Further afield, Gianni is turning his attention to South Korea, which requires an initial batch of 40 aircraft. He says BAE Systems' joint bid with Boeing for Korean Aerospace Industries - which will be the local prime contract and will expect to receive significant offset work and possibly final assembly - will benefit the Typhoon. Boeing, however, is pushing its F-15E in the same competition. Gianni also acknowledges that the long-standing relationship between South Korea and the USA will be difficult to overcome. A decision is not expected until 2002.

Eurofighter is faced with a last push to ensure on-time service entry and then a long line of competitions. EFI needs to achieve success now, beating well-established fighters, to provide a strong foothold for when next-generation platforms - particularly JSF - arrive in the marketplace.