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Ready to serve

STEWART PENNEY / WARTON & MUNICH

The four partner air forces set to receive the first Eurofighters later this year have been busy preparing their support teams for the big day

Later this year the Eurofighter programme will reach a major milestone with the handover of the first aircraft to the UK Royal Air Force for the start of operational training. The German, Italian and Spanish air forces will receive their first multirole fighters shortly after the RAF.

Although the Eurofighter by the end of this year will still be some way from operational service, the four partner air forces will at last have their long-awaited aircraft and will be on course to declare the multirole Eurofighter operational in 2006.

Each of the air forces will first operate the aircraft from their national Eurofighter partner company bases. Initial German air force Eurofighters will be stationed at Manching in Bavaria, the EADS Germany final assembly site and home to the German national test centre, WTD61. Italian aircraft will begin operations from Alenia's Caselle plant near Turin; Spain's fighters will operate from EADS Casa's plant at Getafe near Madrid and UK aircraft will operate from BAE Systems' Warton site in north-west England.

Service entry this year still represents a challenge for the partner companies. Although Eurofighter development aircraft are a familiar sight at air shows, the first production aircraft, IPA2, did not fly from Caselle until 5 April this year, followed three days later by IPA3 from Manching. BAE flew IPA1 on 15 April. These Eurofighters are instrumented, however, and have joined the flight-test programme. The first aircraft to be delivered to the RAF is not due to fly until September.

Delivered

Although the UK Ministry of Defence's best entry-into-service date estimate is the end of this year, Eurofighter schedules indicate that the aircraft will be ready for handover in October. Alenia, EADS Casa and EADS Germany are close behind the UK construction programme.

To support the Eurofighter, the RAF will form an operational evaluation unit (OEU) at BAE Warton. At the same time and in the same place, the first service pilot instructor training (SPIT) will begin.

Ahead of delivery of the aircraft, the air forces have received initial spares packages and technical publications, and the industrial support elements are being put in place, says Massimo Tarantola, Eurofighter support programme director.

Phil Jakes, BAE contractor support services (CSS) manager, says the aim of the CSS programme is to train air and ground crew, and transfer technology and understanding to the RAF as it replaces Panavia Tornado F3 air-defence fighters and Sepecat Jaguar GR3 strike aircraft with Eurofighters.

The Eurofighter production contract is split into three tranches, which in turn are split into blocks. Tranche 1 covers 148 aircraft, including five instrumented production aircraft (IPA), as well as 38 Eurofighters to be built in Block 1 and 105 in Block 2. The RAF will receive 13 Block 1 aircraft and 39 from the second block. The three IPAs now flying are two-seaters, as will be the first aircraft delivered to the partner air forces. The EADS Casa-built IPA4 and BAE-assembled IPA5 will be single-seaters that will fly next year. The first operational single-seater, BS001, will go to the RAF late next year, with BS004, the UK's first Block 2 aircraft, to be handed over in early 2004.

As production progresses, aircraft will be delivered with progressively improved capabilities. Block 1 will be equipped with PSP1 software cleared for the training role. The following 70 Eurofighters will have PSP2, allowing air-to-air operations and providing the full MIDS datalink functionality. The last 35 Tranche 1 fighters will be equipped with PSP3 software to the full operational capability standard. This will include some air-to-surface capabilities.

Jakes says BAE has been working closely with the RAF since the "Case White" - or CSS - contract was signed by the UK MoD and BAE in March last year. Case White provides engineering and logistics support for Block 1 Eurofighters, which will fly 1,300h during the contract, he says. SPIT will qualify 16 aircrew to fly the Eurofighter. Six will be OEU pilots, with the rest being the first instructors for 29 Sqn, the Eurofighter operational conversion unit (OCU).

In addition, BAE's CSS contract requires it to return the 13 Block 1 Eurofighters to final assembly for upgrade to Block 2 configuration and the transfer of all government furnished equipment to the RAF on completion of flying. At the end of Case White, the OEU will be transferred to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, which will also be home to the OCU. The base is now undergoing refurbishment in readiness for the Eurofighter's arrival late next year.

Jakes says the CSS approach "derisks" service entry, as it allows for operation of the new aircraft from the UK location with the most Eurofighter experience. Warton is home to BAE's Eurofighter development team. Two development aircraft and IPA1 are based at the airfield. BAE personnel who have looked after these three aircraft will be responsible for first and second line maintenance of the RAF's fighters, while also passing on their knowledge to the service personnel.

The SPIT syllabus will consist of two weeks ground school, followed by four weeks flying. Pilots will be converted to type and gain weapon system familiarity, says Jakes. Each pilot will fly 12 sorties and around 15h as well as use BAE simulators. These will be used for RAF pilot training until devices ordered under the Aircrew Synthetic Training Aids contract become available (see box). Night flying and in-flight refuelling will also be part of the course. Qualified pilots will have completed day and night solo flights, gained an instrument rating and be cleared as aircraft rear seat captain.

OEU Block 1 operations will include 790h flying with regular four-ship formations operational mission profiles, says Jakes. The intention is to evaluate the Eurofighter flight envelope and Block 1 weapon system. Interception tactical profiles and frontline operational doctrine will then be developed and the OCU course flying syllabus and techniques will be validated, adds Jakes. This work will include testing radar and cockpit display performance, formation-flying procedures, chaff and flare utilisation, missile firing and the fighter's aerodynamic and tactical performance in air-to-air combat.

One of the 13 Eurofighters will be dedicated to the maintenance school, says Jakes, while the aircraft not needed for flying operations will also be available for ground crew training. As part of their training, RAF ground staff will work alongside BAE personnel, gaining experience before joining RAF units as qualified to work on PSP2-configured aircraft - 60 engineers will also be qualified to work on PSP1 standard fighters.

Although the RAF will be able to tap into BAE's experience, it will operate as a self-contained organisation as the Eurofighters will be operated from a dedicated hardstanding and the personnel will occupy purpose-built buildings.

Trade restructure

The CSS contract included training for 248 RAF ground personnel, but this number was subsequently reduced to 190 taking longer courses as the RAF is altering its "trade structure". Today, the RAF has five trades: airframe, propulsion, electricians, avionics and armament. Airframe and propulsion will be merged, as will the electricians and avionics trades.

Jakes adds that CSS also means "the customer sees all the support contracts coming on line before he moves to the first operational base". During Case White, the industrial support team will also begin operations that will provide it with early experience of the Industrial Exchange and Repair Service.

Germany, the second largest customer, will receive 44 Tranche 1 Eurofighters and will begin to convert its first unit, JG73 at Laage near Rostock, in October next year. At present JG73 operates RSK MiG-29s and McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantoms. The German air force earlier this year revised its Eurofighter service-entry plans, with a decision to make the third Eurofighter unit JBG31 at N"rvenich, which - unlike JG73 and the second unit, JG74 at Neuburg - isa Panavia Tornado strike squadron totake advantage of the fighter's multirole capabilities.

JG74 is due to convert from F-4Fs to the Eurofighter in 2005, with JBG31 following two years later. The final F-4F unit, JG71 at Wittmund, will receive the Eurofighter from 2009, while the fifth Eurofighter Wing will be another Tornado operator, JBG33 at Büchel, which is scheduled to convert in 2012.

An industry observer says this change underlines Germany's desire to take Tranche 3 Eurofighters, which has been questioned in recent years.

Robert Kagerer, EADS Eurofighter service entry manager, says the German air force will start its "Troop Trial" operational testing early next year, once service release is achieved. SPIT will start in the second quarter of next year "when the [aircraft has the] right functionality", he adds.

Although it is still to be decided, flying is likely to be from WTD61's facilities at Manching, rather than EADS's. The first spares have been delivered and technical publications and ground support systems will be delivered later this year, he says.

EADS is building facilities at Manching that will be used by joint industry/air force teams to provide Eurofighter maintenance, repair and overhaul. Manching will also be home to Germany's Eurofighter national support centre, says Kagerer. Although the troop trial will be flown by German air force test pilots, EADS will train four pilots and two back-up pilots at Manching, to form the core of JG73 at Laage. During SPIT, the aircrew will receive 95h theory training, 31h in the simulator and 25h in the aircraft, says EADS.

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