The Eurofighter partner companies were expected late last week to conclude negotiations with the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) over planned capability enhancements to Tranche 2 production aircraft for Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
A contract for the work should be signed before the end of this year, with the improvements to focus largely on the integration of short-range air-to-surface weapons and additional air-to-air missile (AAM) types, says Harald Heindl, senior manager Eurofighter product development for EADS Military Air Systems.
To be introduced using a new spiral development model, the system enhancements will be delivered as capability upgrades planned for late 2010 and late 2012. Integration of BGT’s digital IRIS-T short-range AAM is currently slated for 2010, while the MBDA Storm Shadow and Taurus Systems’ KEPD350 cruise missiles should follow towards the end of Tranche 2, says Heindl.
However, the introduction of MBDA’s Meteor beyond-visual-range AAM could be in danger of slipping into the programme’s Tranche 3 production phase, adds Heindl.
Also in doubt is whether the core nations will all opt to retrofit their Tranche 1 Eurofighters to the Tranche 2 standard, says EADS.
The Eurofighter partner companies are also now producing pre-definition concept studies on Tranche 3 capabilities, to be discussed with NETMA from October. The agency will next year issue a detailed request for proposals for Tranche 3 production. A contract must be signed in 2009 to enable production deliveries to run between 2012 and 2018.
The Eurofighter nations are expected to request the ability to perform network-enabled operations and to use their aircraft in combination with unmanned reconnaissance and medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles as part of the Tranche 3 deal, says Heindl. Additional requirements will include integration of an active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar and a medium-range air-to-surface missile with a range of up to 54nm (100km), he says.
AESA integration for Eurofighter gathers pace
A long-running programme to develop an active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar for the Eurofighter Typhoon will make a significant advance before year-end, with the Caesar demonstrator payload to be flown on EADS’s DA5 develoment aircraft.
To take place from the company’s Manching site near Munich, the milestone will come just months before so-called Series 1 flight tests of the German/UK-developed Caesar sensor will resume in the UK using a Qinetiq-operated BAC One-Eleven trials aircraft.
The platform completed an initial campaign of seven test flights earlier this year, during which the radar – which comprises over 1,400 European-built transmit/receive modules – demonstrated a detection range of 65nm (120km), says EADS.
The same BAC One-Eleven will also be used during 2007 to conduct the first flight of Europe’s four-nation Amsar AESA demonstrator.
Technologies from the two programmes will be used to provide an electronically-scanned front end for the Euroradar Captor sensors which will equip Tranche 3 production examples of the Eurofighter from 2012.